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2023: Jenny Lind Chapel, Andover, Illinois, USA
Jenny Lind Chapel, Andover, Illinois, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Kanzelaltar.
The church: Jenny Lind Chapel, Andover, Illinois, USA.
Denomination: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Northern Illinois Synod.
The building: The building is in a very simple Greek Revival style and dates from the early 1850s. The interior features an honest-to-goodness Kanzelaltar (baptismal font, altar and pulpit all built together), with the pulpit directly behind and above the altar. The chapel was the original church of the Augustana Lutheran congregation in Andover but is now owned by the Northern Illinois Synod of the ELCA. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The church: The chapel was named after world-renowned Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind, who donated $1,500 toward its construction but never saw the church or visited Andover. It is primarily used for special services during the year, including Sunday vespers in the summer and Christmas services. It is also a popular wedding venue.
The neighborhood: Andover is a village of about 600 persons in northwestern Illinois, and was one of the first areas where Swedish immigrants settled in the 1840s. It was the site of the first Lutheran social ministry in Illinois, an orphanage for children whose parents had been taken by the cholera. There are several historically interesting church buildings of various denominations, as well as old homes, a schoolhouse, and cemeteries.
The cast: Liturgist and preacher was the Revd Stacie Fidlar, pastor of St John's Lutheran Church in nearby Rock Island, Illinois. There was no bulletin. I do not know the name of the organist.
The date & time: Sunday, July 18, 2010, 7.00pm.

What was the name of the service?

How full was the building?
The main floor can probably hold 80 to 90 people. There were about 25 on hand for the service. Not full by any means, but it did not seem empty.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Several people were handing out hymnals as I came in. They smiled and said hello and seemed glad to see me. There was no one sitting in the pew that I chose. A couple came in and sat right behind me. Listening to them, I realized that the man was a fellow alumnus of the same college I had attended. We struck up a conversation and ended by singing, softly, the school's famous fight song, much to the dismay of the man's wife.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pews were remarkable for the very tall back rests, much higher than most. The result was that when surveying the rest of the congregation, all I could see was the tops of heads.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Relaxed and cordial. Most folks seemed to know one another.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good evening. Tonight we will use the black hymnal."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Augustana Synod Hymnal of 1925.

What musical instruments were played?
A single manual reed pump organ (harmonium).

Jenny Lind Chapel, Andover, Illinois, USA

Did anything distract you?
The Kanzelaltar itself. I kept wondering if the officiant would actually go up into the pulpit to preach.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was neither; just good solid Midwestern Lutheran worship.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
13 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Pastor Fidlar presented herself as low key and serious. She was not given to theatrics or raised voice. In fact, sometimes she dropped her voice so that it was difficult to hear the end of a sentence. Basically, though, it was a calm and effective manner for a small group at the end of the day.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was based on the single scripture reading, the story in Luke's gospel about Mary and Martha. Pastor Fidlar focused on Jesus admonishing Martha for being distracted by many tasks. She then told a story about herself and how she was ticketed earlier in the week by a state trooper for talking on her cell phone while driving. She admitted that she could have been cited for several other offenses, but the trooper limited himself to just one. Basically, she said, she was cited for being distracted and not focusing on one thing. And so it is with many of us. For all the talk about the benefits of multi-tasking, there is a growing awareness that it is an illusion. The same applies to our relationship with God. We are called to focus fully on that one thing, and that alone.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Being in a venerable church building that has seen such difficult early years and serves as a testimony to the faith and endurance of those early settlers.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Although we used the order for vespers found in the hymnal, we sang only the hymns and not any of the responses or the Nunc dimittis. Pity. Also, Pastor Fidlar did not ascend the pulpit to preach. Double pity.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The fellow alumnus sitting behind me resumed our pre-service conversation. We talked about other persons from the college as we slowly made our way from the chapel to our cars.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It was getting on to 8.00pm when the service ended. Although Swedes can drink coffee at almost any hour of the day, folks were wanting to head home.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – Since the Jenny Lind Chapel does not hold weekly services and is not a parish church, this question does not apply. On the other hand, though, it is a place to which I would gladly return for special occasions.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Ja, you betcha.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The admonition not to grow distracted and to focus on the better part.
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