St. Paul’s by-the-Lake has always been a traditional parish grounded in the unchanging Faith of the Holy Scriptures, the Creeds, Sacraments and Holy Tradition of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. St. Paul’s began fairly ‘High Church’ in the 1880s. Eyebrows were raised and letters written to the Bishop when in their new 1886 church building the choirs were vested and led by a crucifer with processional cross. By the time of the present Nave & Sanctuary (1925) the parish was well steeped in the English Parish Communion tradition with full Eucharistic Vestments and a church design with the choir in the transept balcony. There were no barriers between the nave pews and the Altar rail.
Beginning as early as the 1930s the 4th Rector, Fr. Charles T. Hull (rector from 1927 to 1960), moved the parish significantly towards the Morning Prayer with Boys Choir model. The choir was brought down from the transept balcony and placed between the Sanctuary and Nave, greatly reducing the size of the Sanctuary space.
With the rectorate of Fr. Clifford Buzzard in the 1960s the parish began to return to the centrality of the Holy Eucharist as the main act of worship each Sunday. The Boys Choir did not survive the retirement of the long-time organist A.J. Strom in the mid-1960s.
In 1970 Fr. Daniel L. Banner became the 6th Rector and led the parish more solidly to its present Anglo-Catholic position. Fr. Banner built on Fr. Buzzard’s good teachings of the prominence of the Eucharist in Christian Worship. Fr. Banner introduced the use of the Anglican Missal with the choir singing the minor propers from the English Gradual. He also introduced the Daily Mass, Stations of the Cross, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and a fuller use of the liturgical calendar celebrating the lives of the saints. Under his rectorate the parish’s holdings of Sacred Vestments, many of which are antiques, increased to a significant collection of textile art.
Today the parish maintains an Anglo-Catholic approach to the Anglican Tradition of Christianity, while also remaining a lively family-oriented parish. The parish affiliated with the Episcopal Synod of America in 1989 and has continued to participate in its successor organization Forward in Faith North America. In 2003, we hosted the Midwest Festival of Faith on the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The parish witnesses to the Doctrine of Christ as this Church has received from the Apostles through the heritage of the Church of England. We witness in many works of charity and outreach here in our Chicago neighborhood and around the world through fellowship with Anglicans in such far places as the Sudan and the Congo.