Church of the Ascension, Chicago

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Church of the Ascension, Chicago
Denomination Episcopal Church
Churchmanship Anglo-catholic
Dedication St Michael
Diocese Chicago
Rector David C. Cobb

The Church of the Ascension is an Anglo-Catholic parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. Founded in 1857 as a mission of St. James Church,[1] it is now located on N. LaSalle Blvd. on Chicago's Near North Side. The church became a part of the Anglo-Catholic movement in 1869. The principal service on Sunday is the Solemn High Mass celebrated at 11:00 am, according to Rite II. This mass is celebrated at the High Altar (facing east), and includes three sacred ministers, many acolytes, incense, and music provided by a professional choir. The mass includes processions and other devotions on certain feasts and holy days.

SPECIAL LITURGIES AND OBSERVANCES: The Church of the Ascension holds many special services throughout the church year, including a Solemn Festival of Lessons and Carols on the First Sunday of Advent, a Solemn Procession on Corpus Christi, Solemn High Masses on Festivals of Our Lord and Our Lady, Requiem Masses on All Souls’ Day, as well as Stations of the Cross and Benediction on the Fridays in Lent.

BENEDICTION OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT: Ascension was the first parish church in the Anglican Communion to offer benediction of the Blessed Sacrament since the Reformation. Benediction is offered monthly after Evensong, from October through May, as well as on Fridays in Lent following Stations of the Cross, and at the end of the Corpus Christi Mass and Procession.

The Rev. Gary P. Fertig, retired in 2012; The parish was then led by an interim rector, the Rev. Milton C. Williams, Jr. who served in that position until February 9, 2014, when he departed to accept the position of Interim Dean of St. James' Cathedral in Chicago. The new Rector, the Rev. David Cobb of Christ Church, New Haven, Connecticut, took office in March 2014. [2]

Also attached to the parish is the convent of the Order of St. Anne.


The Church has a fine musical tradition. CHOIRMASTER Thomas Wikman has had an extensive career as a choral and orchestral conductor, voice teacher and organist. He has conducted hundreds of concerts in repertoire from the Renaissance to the 20th century, specializing in the large choral masterpieces of the 17th through 19th centuries. His discography includes numerous CD’s among them a critically acclaimed Vespers of the Blessed Virgin (1610) by Claudio Monteverdi.[3]

As Choirmaster of Church of the Ascension since 1984, Wikman has conducted the professional choir in more than 1700 worship services replete with masterpieces from the year 1000 A.D. to the present, including pieces by Orlando di Lasso, de Victoria, Palestrina, Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Haydn, Liszt, Brahms, Herbert Howells, Leo Sowerby and Ralph Vaughan Williams. In May 2002, The University of Illinois at Chicago awarded Wikman the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts (Honoris Causa) for “…making an incomparable contribution to the musical life of Chicago.” Wikman maintains a voice studio producing students who have performed roles at the Metropolitan and Chicago Lyric Operas as well as the major European Houses including LaScala, Bayreuth, Vienna and Berlin.

He is also an active organist who has played over 600 recitals. Wikman currently is the Artistic Director of the Paul Manz Organ series for the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago and he was the organist and Artist-in-Residence at the Chicago Theological Seminary where he played weekly recitals. He has toured Europe seven times as an organist playing recitals in France, Germany, Switzerland. Hungary, Denmark and Italy. Highlights include recitals at The Friars' Basilica in Venice; Saint-Sulpice, Paris; and The Royal Castle at Hillerod, Denmark.

CHURCH OF THE ASCENSION's organist, David Schrader, has held this position for more than 30 years, beginning his tenure in 1980. The Schlicker Organ Company of Buffalo, New York installed the parish's organ in 1964. The organ has three manuals and 64 ranks. A new console was installed and some tonal alterations performed by the Berghaus Organ Company of Bellwood, Illinois, in 1984, 2001 and 2014. The main organ also has a “loft-mate” in the form of a two-stop cabinet organ (Daniel Jaeckel), which is owned by Dr. Schrader. This delightful little organ is heard in preludes and interludes. The small organ is tuned and winded differently than the main organ, giving the parish an aesthetic option in pipe organ sound. [4]

At all Church of the Ascension Solemn High Masses throughout the year, men of the Schola Cantorum sing five pieces of Gregorian chant called the “minor propers.” In the Anglo-Catholic church, a “proper” is a bit of Scripture that changes from week to week (or day to day for daily Mass) according to the Roman Gradual (or in Latin: Graduale Romanum), an official liturgical book of the Roman Rite. The most obvious Scripture that is “proper” for any one day of the church calendar is the appropriate text of the Old Testament, the Epistle, and the Gospel; these propers vary in a three-year cycle called the “Lectionary” and might be referred to as the “Major Propers” although that term is rarely used. The minor propers are Scripture that are of lesser importance and according to the Book of Common Prayer are optional in the worship service. Minor propers are Biblical texts that comprise the traditional Introit, Gradual, Alleluia (or in Lent, the Tract), Offertory, and Communion of the Roman Gradual.

A “proper” can be contrasted to the “ordinary” of the Mass, which are elements of the liturgy that do not vary from time to time. The usual or ordinary parts of the Mass include the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.

Most of the Biblical texts for the minor propers are drawn from the psalms, although some text is drawn from Old Testament Apocrypha, Prophets and, occasionally, the Gospel. The text reflects or comments on and reinforces the major Biblical readings of the day. The major purpose of these musical interludes is to provide musical accompaniment to the non-verbal liturgical aspects of the worship.

The first minor proper, the Introit, occurs right after the entrance hymn and accompanies the initial censing of the altar. Since the Middle Ages, this Gregorian chant usually is made up of a single verse in a psalm called the “refrain.” The chant starts with the refrain and then the “Gloria Patri….” is chanted followed by a repetition of the refrain (or antiphon). Since the Introit is the first thing that happens in the worship service, its first word is sometimes used to designate the entire Mass. For example, the first word of the Introit for the Third Sunday in of Advent is “Gaudete” so this Mass is called “Gaudete Sunday” and the Fourth Sunday in Lent is called “Laetare Sunday,” the first word of the minor propers for this Sunday’s Mass.

The second minor proper is the Gradual, and it is sung between the reading of the Old Testament and the Epistle.

The third minor proper is the Alleluia and is sung in the transition between the Epistle and the Gospel including the Gospel procession into the center of the church. The Alleluia is added as an exclamation of thanksgiving for the word of the Gospel and is sung around a psalm. The Gregorian chant for the alleluia often ends with a very long melody sung to the last vowel of alleluia. During Lent, the Tract replaces the Alleluia since the joyousness of the Alleluia is deemed inappropriate at this time. Tracts are not necessarily sorrowful or penitential, but tend to be longer in length and have no refrain.

The fourth minor proper is the Offertory and is sung when members of the parish bring the gifts of bread and wine to the altar as the priests prepare for the Eucharist. The last minor proper is the Communion and is sung while the celebrant distributes the bread and wine to the other ministers and acolytes.

It is very rare to find all minor propers chanted in Latin using Gregorian chant in every Solemn High Mass as is done at The Church of the Ascension in Chicago. Most parishes use only hymns to accompany the transitions filled at Church of the Ascension by the Ascension Schola Cantorum chanting the minor propers in Latin. [5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Giles, George (1984). "Chapter I. The Early Years". History of the Church of the Ascension, Chicago, Illinois 1857-1982. Aberdeen, South Dakota: North Plains Press, 1984. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  2. ^ Church of the Ascension
  3. ^ Church of the Ascension
  4. ^ Church of the Ascension
  5. ^ Church of the Ascension

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