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2952: Queen of All Saints Basilica, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Queen of All Saints, Chicago (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Liffey.
The church: Queen of All Saints Basilica, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Denomination: Roman Catholic, Archdiocese of Chicago.
The building: Completed in 1960, this modern Gothic church was raised to the dignity of a basilica by Pope John XXIII in 1962. The nave, sanctuary, windows, altar rail, pulpit and mosaic of the Virgin are beautiful. However, the baptistery is one of a kind. It is filled with many, many relics in beautiful reliquaries and has wonderful stained glass windows. The windows tell the story of the Catholic Church in Chicago, depict the signing of the Treaty of Chicago (by which Native Americans ceded land to the United States in 1835) and show the baptism of the children of the treaty's negotiator, Chief Sauganash (also known as Billy Caldwell) and his wife De Nanette.
The church: They support a number of outreach ministries to hospitals, nursing homes and charitable organizations, all detailed on their website. There is a men's club, a women's auxiliary, and Moms and Moppets. Queen of All Saints School offers a comprehensive education program for pre-school through eighth grade. There are three masses each weekday and five each Sunday, plus the Saturday evening anticipated mass.
The neighborhood: This is the Sauganash neighborhood on Chicago's North Side. Decidedly upper middle class, it is where fine old homes stand side by side with newer ranch style dwellings, all immaculately kept in a setting of well planned streetscapes and public spaces.
The cast: The Revd Msgr John E. Pollard, pastor. He was joined at this service by the Revd Patrick G. Cecil, pastor, St Mary of the Woods Roman Catholic Church; the Revd Dr Greg Mesimore, senior pastor, and the Revd Jill Lind, associate pastor, Edgebrook Covenant Church; and the Revd Gregory B. Sabetta, senior pastor, Edgebrook Community United Church of Christ.
The date & time: Wednesday, November 25, 2015, 7.30pm.

What was the name of the service?
Community Thanksgiving Service: Edgebrook-Sauganash-Lincolnwood Ministerium. The Ministerium, an ecumenical alliance of several area churches, has been sponsoring the Thanksgiving Eve prayer service for many years; each year a different congregation hosts the service.

How full was the building?
About 100 people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. There were ladies handing out service pamphlets who greeted and welcomed us.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People quietly talking and milling about looking at this magnificent church.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good evening. Welcome to Queen of All Saints Basilica for our Thanksgiving prayer service."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Two hymnals: Gather and Worship.

What musical instruments were played?
The music was wonderful. Kenneth Sotak, director of music, and Paul Scavone, director of liturgy, along with the Queen of All Saints choir, inspired the congregation. Dr Sotak played the organ and was joined by a brass section. Paul Scavone was a rocking cantor who inspired enthusiastic participation. From "All Creatures of our God and King" through the psalm and on to the closing "America the Beautiful", the music was uplifting, joyful and loud, with lots of participation from the pews.

Did anything distract you?
Just the fact that Msgr Pollard never smiled during the service. There were three of us in our group and we all commented on this after the service.

Queen of All Saints, Chicago (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service was reverential and uplifting. It opened with a choral prelude, the third movement (Psalm 131) of Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms – a frightfully difficult work, carried off masterfully. Then there were readings from the Old and New Testaments; prayers of the people, for peace and for the military; hymns; an appeal for the St Vincent de Paul Society; the Lord's Prayer and a blessing. Procession in, recession out. All quite lovely!

Exactly how long was the sermon?
I forgot to time the sermon! But it wasn't so long that I drifted off.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The Revd Dr Greg Mesimore made good eye contact with the crowd and held his arms out as if he were embracing each and every one of us. It felt sincere and full of love. It was a nice sermon and a great reminder to stop and smell the roses. And he smiled.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Pastor Mesimore talked about gratitude. Even in our world today, there are so many things for which we can be grateful. He reminded us to look for gratitude every day in all things great and small. And he told us that we can foster a personal culture of gratitude by starting small and actively looking for reasons to be grateful.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The music was great. Also, it was fun hearing how our responses were just the slightest bit different depending on what congregation we were from. The feeling of community was nice.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
At the beginning of the service, we were asked by Msgr Pollard to greet those around us, since we were all from different congregations. After what seemed like a half a minute, he said, "Well, you don't have to tell each other your life story!" and not in a jovial way. We felt very hurried in our greetings and quite cut off by his remark. He never once smiled during this service.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We did not hang around, although the social justice ministry sponsored a reception after the service.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
We didn't attend.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – Well, this is a beautiful church, but I mainly wanted to comment on how much I have enjoyed attending the Thanksgiving Eve service for about the last 10 years. All the other years I have felt welcome at the other neighborhood churches.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, absolutely.

Queen of All Saints, Chicago (Baptistery)

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Smile, darn ya, smile!
 
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