The Evensong Committee

It was obvious that a committee was gathering outside before Evensong. First one, then another. A gathering next to the church noticeboard. Each looked at the board to check the time and to note what was written there. Eventually the committee numbered 8-10 individuals who nodded to one another and walked towards me as I stood bedecked like a Christmas tree in the Cope of Glory at the Cathedral door before Evensong, as is my wont.

But who where they?

Were they the Regional Church-Noticeboard Appraisal Committee?

Were they the Glasgow and District Organ Tappers and Kistwhistlers Society?

Were they the Liturgical Inspectors come to check that I was doing all I should?

Were they the renegade Youth Wing of the Prayer Book Society?

Was it the local Flash Mob Choral Evensong crowd?

In the end it turned out that they were none of these things. No, they were a group from ICC – the International Christian College who were doing a worship appraisal exercise. “Oooh”, I said, “who’ve you been to?” wanting to know how we measured up to the competition. Alas, we were the first on their rounds, so no gossip about anyone else was forthcoming.

After the service, I did a quick impromptu whiz around the building with them, pointing out the best bits of the murals and trying to answer their questions?

Was it a performance? Sure. We practise hard to do this and try to offer the best and most glorious to God. Anyway, if I had known you were coming, I’d have made sure you got a real show.

Is it a dying tradition? No, it is increasingly attracting people and the age profile is broadening again. It is also feeder service for other things we do and people often try us out first at Choral Evensong and then come to other services.

But why? Well we provide pillars to hide behind, we don’t hassle people and you don’t have to do anything except sit in God’s presence and sit with your emotions. You can cry if you like or you can pretend you just came for the music.

Ooh, its seeker friendly! – You bet!

It was lovely to have them here asking questions and I hope that their meander around various services is fruitful. As they left, I told them that Choral Evensong acts like a sanctuary for some folk who are heavily involved in other kinds of services in other kinds of churches elsewhere in the city and whenever they needed a chill-out service to reconnect with God they would be welcome here.


  1. Paul Robertson says

    Kelvin, thanks again for your time (and patience!) on Sunday night. I trust we didn’t detain you for too long from your other evening engagemant. (The St Mungo’s at Bar Gambrinos is particularly good…)

    (Evensong Committee member)

  2. what fun.

    So, Paul: what was it like? I’d love to hear how someone experiencing evensong for the first time feels about it.

  3. Martin Ritchie says

    You’re right about evensong at St Mary’s being a sanctuary for folks from other congregations. I really enjoyed coming over to evensong whilst I was a member at St Margaret’s Newlands, and was involved in playing/singing there on Sunday mornings.

  4. Paul R says

    Kimberley, thanks for asking. (The following is intended as musing rather than critique. Please feel free to offer correction if I’m speaking out of ignorance…)

    It was very enjoyable. I love choral music in general. The choir, the musical settings used, and the architecture were all superb. There was a senfe of serenty, space and reverence that are often lacking from a contemporary evangelical style of worship. And I’m a sucker for a good liturgical service format!

    There was really interesting mixes of tradition and innovation in the music and artwork, but little (unless I missed it) in the language used. I wonder what Thomas Cranmer would make of Evensong still being sung in as traditional a way as that? And I wonder what proportion of Glaswegians would have understood the meaning behind it (although I’m sure the aesthetics would be appreciated by most)?

    I think that style of worship, in that setting, reflects well God’s transcendence and magnificence and wonderfully links us with those who have gone before us in our faith. But I wonder how well it can reflect God’s imminence or, say, the incarnational and suffering aspect of Christ?

    • Hi Paul

      I think that is quite a good description of Choral Evensong.

      The only thing I’d add is that its just one of the services that we have. I think that I would probably say that our 1030 morning service emphasises (but not exclusively so) the immanence, incarnational and sacrificial aspect of Christ. (I’m not a great believer in the redemptive power of suffering, as it happens). Meanwhile, Evensong emphasises (but not exclusively so) the majesty and transcendence. I like having both and I encounter God in different ways in each.

      I’m inclinded to agree that Cranmer might have been surprised that his words have lasted so long. However, it wasn’t all Cranmer you got on Sunday evening. There are some subtle changes. We are Cranmeresque rather than Pure Unadulterated Cramner. Holy Spirit rather than Holy Ghost is one obvious difference, and though he might have recognised the absolution (as its one of his collects), Cranmer might well have been puzzled by the confession.

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