by David Sinden, Organist & Director of Music
At St. Peter’s, we make no secret of our belief that “Evensong is for everyone.” This Lent, St. Peter’s parishioners are encouraged to take the “Lenten Challenge:” it’s an invitation to take advantage of something offered at St. Peter’s that you wouldn’t usually attend. To that end, you are warmly invited to a service of Choral Evensong on Sunday, March 11 at 5:00 p.m.
Choral Evensong (or another choral service) has become a regular fixture of our worship life on the second Sunday of the month. It is a quintessentially Anglican service of scripture, prayer, and music held in the evening. Choral Evensong differs from our Sunday morning worship in that there is no Holy Communion and no sermon.
So should you just skip Sunday morning worship, and just head to Evensong? By no means! The Book of Common Prayer tells us that the Holy Eucharist is “the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day,” and it rightly has pride of place in our worship life at St. Peter’s. But Evensong is a compelling counterpart to this worship service, and it can be somewhat different in tone from our morning liturgy.
The service of Evensong was the result of synthesizing the monastic services of Vespers and Compline. Compline was the last service of the day, and as such it is preoccupied with night and sleep. In the monastic mind, sleep was seen as a “little death.” Such thoughts are not meant to be morbid, but rather to put the work of each day, and our entire lives, into a broader context.
The goal of the Lenten Challenge at St. Peter’s is “a deeper relationship with the One who, in the words of our Ash Wednesday liturgy, ‘created us out of the dust of the earth’ and gives us everlasting life through the gracious gift of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Lent, therefore seems an ideal time to engage with the themes of Compline.
There is an element of Compline that has become a tradition at services of Evensong at St. Peter’s. After the choir departs the church and enters the narthex, the very last thing that they sing is a Choral Orison, the words of which come from Reginald Heber (1783–1826).
God, that madest earth and heaven,
Darkness and light;
Who the day for toil hast given,
For rest the night;
May thine angel guards defend us,
Slumber sweet thy mercy send us,
Holy dreams and hopes attend us,
This livelong night.
Evensong has been a part of worship in the Anglican Church for centuries, and the clergy and St. Peter’s Singers have regularly offered this service for more than 25 years.
If you have never been, I challenge you to come to our beautiful church for a candlelit service of scripture, prayer, and music as the sun is setting on Sunday, March 11 at 5:00 p.m.
There, that doesn’t sound so hard, does it?