Third video in healthy congregation series features Chicago parish

April 1, 2011

St. Paul & the Redeemer in Chicago, Illinois, has transformed itself from a church once described as "conflicted" to a vibrant worshiping and social community with a diverse membership, music spanning the globe and the ages, and including a strong presence and participation of children in the liturgy and music, according to a press release from the Episcopal Church's Office of Public Affairs.

The church is featured in the third of five videos in the "Transforming Churches, Changing the World" series produced by the Episcopal Church Office of Communication. [The video is available here.]

St. Paul & the Redeemer became one in 1968 with the merger of two churches in Hyde Park, the South Side neighborhood home to the University of Chicago. The church's transformation was initiated by one rector, and then continued by the next, with ongoing support from the congregation.

"St. Paul & the Redeemer is located in a really vibrant culture because of the University of Chicago's environs," said the Rev. Bob Honeychruch, the Episcopal Church's officer for congregational vitality, in the release. "The neighborhood is eclectic -- mixed race, mixed age. And the congregation more and more reflects its neighborhood."

To Honeychurch, St. Paul & the Redeemer "exemplifies transformative work," he said.

"This congregation sees its primary point of contact with the wider community through its Sunday morning experience. The worship becomes its witness to the world," he added.

"What we do is the Episcopal liturgy," the Rev. Peter Lane, rector, explains in the video. "We just do it in creative ways."

During its transformation, the first major change was the music. "That was a signal to the people" that change was here, said former rector, the Very Rev. James Steen.

Under the direction of Dent Davidson, associate for music and liturgy, three different services reflect a variety of worship needs in the community, which Honeychurch described as a cornerstone of the church's worship.

"Period of composition, style of composition, origin of composition … jazz with Gregorian chant, it's an incredibly rich and diverse music environment," he said.

The church boasts two children's choirs, which fully participate in the worship, according to the release.

In addition to musical alterations, the building itself was transformed, reflecting more open space that can be utilized for many purposes, the release says. This change was another important signal, said Steen. "The space reflects a community that gathers around the table."

The purpose of the "Transforming Churches, Changing the World" video series is to present identifying characteristics of healthy churches with a focus on ministry and outreach, the release said.

A new video in the series will be presented each month through May. Previous videos are available here and feature Christ Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix, Arizona.

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