Esater Vigil in Chicago?
March 11, 2010 1:03 PM   Subscribe

Where should I attend Easter Vigil in Chicago next month?

I am an atheist, but experienced a profound revelation of the importance of spirituality during Easter Vigil five years ago. This is because the Easter Vigil service is awesome. I have attended every year since, mostly at different churches in the Chicago area. Any suggestions about where I should go this year?

Qualifications: should be accessible via public transportation in Chicago, must have a congregation that's cool with (or doesn't care about) an atheist witnessing the ceremony (although not taking communion, of course), and it should be beautiful. A dawn service would also be a possibility, if you know of a really great one.

For the first three years I went to St. Luke's, in Evanston. The Pascal Candle was lit from a four-foot pillar of fire, and on the words, "He is risen" the entire congregation took out little bells that they had hidden in their pockets and they all started ringing them. It was wonderful!

In 2008 I went to the Queen of the Angels, which was much less ostentatious. They did have a hidden choir, which was beautiful, and they had a priest who very clearly knew every single member of his congregation extremely well, and that was nice.

Last year I went to St. Sabina, which began with a breathtaking pre-recorded reading of a new translation of Genesis (and they have a sound system that lets you really feel it) and ended with full body baptisms for a wide range of folks, from infants to people in their thirties.

Each time the experience has been really great, and the mixture of spectacle and shared faith and overwhelming beauty was incredible. Do any of you have suggestions for where I should go this year?

(And yes, this may well be "beauty tourism" or "faith voyeurism" or something, but as long as the participants are comfortable with that, I'm not worried).
posted by Squid Voltaire to Religion & Philosophy (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
St. James Episcopal Cathedral has a lovely Vigil service. It's not a dawn service -- it's Saturday night -- but it's quite beautiful with much excellent music and other performance art (last year featured beautiful interpretive dance, for instance). The cathedral is at Wabash and Huron, so just a couple blocks from the Chicago stop on the Red Line. The parish is generally quite liberal, and I simply can't fathom that you would not be welcomed, even as an atheist.

(I frankly can't imagine any Christian church having problems with that; if they do, they are missing what it means to be a Christian. As long as you're not there to mock those who do believe, I mean.)
posted by devinemissk at 1:36 PM on March 11, 2010

I was coming in to suggest St. James Cathedral. It's a great congregation, and somehow (in contrast to a great many churches I've been to), the laity who give the liturgical readings are almost always fantastic readers. It's a beautiful service, wonderful, open people, and speaking as one of them, I can't imagine any opposition to your being there as an atheist.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:02 PM on March 11, 2010

There's always the Passion Play in Pilsen, happens on Ashland.

(Shame I had to link to an NYT article about it...)
posted by Max Power at 2:06 PM on March 11, 2010

From Ms. Vegetable:

I think Old St. Pat's regularly has bagpipes, which sound cool from outside. I have not actually been to the service, though, but Catholic churches usually include a quite awesome Canon of the Saints at Easter Vigil. It's very Middle Ages.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:15 PM on March 11, 2010

You haven't experienced an Easter vigil until you've experienced an Orthodox Easter vigil. It's also bit different than what you'd run across in western churches. And if you're looking for "beauty tourism" you definitely can't beat Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago.
posted by flod logic at 5:34 PM on March 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think Flod Logic's answer is probably a good one.
posted by Jahaza at 7:06 PM on March 11, 2010

This is one of the years where Orthodox Easter coincides with non-Orthodox Easter, or I'd recommend you do both! The Orthodox services will certainly be amazing and probably unlike any other service you've ever attended.
posted by devinemissk at 7:44 PM on March 11, 2010

Wonderful, thank you so much! Sounds like this is the perfect year to go to the Holy Trinity (and this is exactly the sort of beauty I was hoping for).

Then I can visit St. James next year. Thank you again for your suggestions, and let me know if you want to join me!

PS--does the Orthodox vigil really start at 4:30 in the afternoon? How long does it last?
posted by Squid Voltaire at 8:54 AM on March 12, 2010

It looks like they don't actually have their Easter schedule posted yet. Those are their regular weekly services. The vigil at 4:30 in the afternoon is the regular Saturday night vespers service and lasts an hour to an hour and a half.

I'd give the cathedral a call and ask about their Easter schedule (which may not be fully set yet.)

For some idea, in Brooklyn, the OCA Cathedral had this schedule in 2009:

Saturday Night:
10:00pm Reading from Book of Acts
11:30pm Nocturne Service
11:45pm Paschal Procession Around the Church
Sunday Morning:
12:00am Paschal Matins and Divine Liturgy

In Manhattan this year:
11:30 pm Vigil of Pascha

So you'll be looking at wanting to get there around 11 o'clock, but you'll want to call to confirm.
posted by Jahaza at 10:37 PM on March 12, 2010

Don't know if anyone will see this, but here's a quick follow up.

First of all, Pascha services started at 11:30, not 4:00 (as Jahaza pointed out). This meant that I had time to go next door to the Lutheran Vigil, as well! That was extremely fun, and it was clear that they were trying to fight the "stodgy Lutheran" stereotype--there was dancing, gospel music, and a choir / organ / trumpet piece at the end. Overwhelmingly joyous--I was grinning for an hour.

Then I went to the Holy Trinity Cathedral, and it really just blew me away. Really, if you get a chance to attend a service there, it's amazing. The acoustics are fantastic--no one had a mic, every word was clear. It was founded at the beginning of last century by a saint (St. John Kochurov, later killed by Bolsheviks) and designed by Louis Sullivan.

The choir was also amazing, the service was amazing,everything! There was no gospel music, but there was still that same, palpable feeling of Joy in the air--there's a reason I love Easter Vigil!

When it ended (at 3:00am) the deacon's wife came over and introduced herself. She invited me to join them for their Easter Feast, which I did. Everyone had brought in baskets full of stuff that they had given up for Lent.

Russian Orthodox are essentially vegan during the final days of Lent, so there was a lot of eggs and cheese in addition to the sweets and wine--apparently one fellow brings cigars every year. These baskets were lined up in two looong rows, and each one had a single lit candle. Then the head priest went down the line, blessing all the food from a bowl of holy water. This was really still pretty formal (he had a special hat, and an ornate bowl, and a young child to carry a special book) but every so often he would bless the crown, flinging holy water on them to their delight.

And then we ate a lot of sugar and meat. It was obvious that I was a stranger there, as I was in my Easter finest--a long red skirt, bright purple vest, mustache freshly waxed--but they were excessively kind and welcoming. I probably made it a bit easier because I couldn't shut up about how beautiful the whole service had been.

Everyone was greeting each other with a joyous, "Christ is risen!", which was a bit awkward as I didn't feel right replying, "Indeed, he is risen!" but no one seemed to mind. Really, just lovely people with a fantastic cathedral and a beautiful service.

Thank you to every who recommended it to me!
posted by Squid Voltaire at 3:48 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

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