The Joy of Evensong

There are reports in the media today that a service of Choral Evensong in Bath Abbey was abandoned last Sunday because those inside the Abbey couldn’t compete with amplified music coming from outside the building. It is a bit of a sorry tale and I’m surprised that the police did not deal with it as a Breach of the Peace.

When I came to St Mary’s I had never been in a church which had Choral Evensong as a regular service before. It had seemed to me to be something which was a bit of an anachronism- something that was dying out along with the users of the Scottish Prayer Book. I’d tried to avoid encouraging it in the churches that I’d previously worked in and was a bit suspicious of coming to a place where there was evening worship every week. It seemed like one unnecessary extra thing to do at the end of a busy day.

However, I couldn’t have been more wrong and within a very short period of time, I had worked out that Choral Evensong was going to be one of the things that would sustain me in my ministry at St Mary’s and also that it was a devotion that was not only still relevant to some people but actively bringing people into church for the first time.

Evensong is so different to the Eucharists we have in the morning at St Mary’s. In the morning, at the main service, there is quite a lot of activity and movement. It feels wonderfully busy and exciting. Choral Evensong feels wonderfully calm and peaceful.

That’s not to say that there isn’t excitement at Evensong – the music is sublime. Here at St Mary’s we are lucky to have some of the most exciting singing you’ll hear in Scotland. The choir, who are all volunteers, make a passionateĀ  sound that ranges from quiet and intimate to full-on ranting for some of the psalms. I love the diversity of music we get and I love the shape to the service which doesn’t change much each week.

Choral Evensong is a perfect chill-out zone. You sit, you listen, you meditate, you absorb. You don’t need to be seen to do anything very much. It isĀ  like bathing in a deep warm bath of musical spirituality.

I’ve noticed that some people engage with St Mary’s for the first time at Evensong. I think it is because it is so easy to come to. Somehow you get time to think at Evensong – re-imagining the world that you’ve left outside the building and preparing yourself for the week ahead as the music and the peace of the building refresh you.

I hope they sort out their troubles at Bath Abbey. Choral Evensong is a lovely thing and it would be terrible to lose it when you have it regularly.

It is Sunday at 6.30 pm here at St Mary’s if you are looking for your soul to be soothed.