Pontifical High Evensnow

Well, last night’s evening service was a delight, if an unexpected one.

Earlier in the day in the face of all the snow and a heating system that had not come on overnight, leaving the church freezing, a decision was taken to postpone the Advent Carol Service until next Sunday evening. However, it was obvious that one or two folk would not get that message and turn up last night anyway. So, what to do with them?

A nifty service of Sung Evensong (Evensnow?) for Advent Sunday was hastily prepared and printed out in the afternoon. How many copies to print, I wondered. I decided to print thirty, just in case. In the end, that’s almost exactly how many turned up – thirty people and a poodle. (The poodle didn’t need a service sheet, or at least shared one for the bits she did need).

Bishop Gregor was with us, which was lovely and he stood with me at the front as I led the service from the portable organ. The heating had managed to warm us a little and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” was never more heartfully sung.

I gather at least one other local church shut up shop for the evening, and our numbers were swelled by one or two who would otherwise have been going around the corner.

All in all, it was a good though unexpected end to an unexpected day.

E and B

Its a funny thing, Choral Evensong. A few years ago, I would have said it was purely of antiquarian interest. However, I was wrong.

Last night was a good example. Glorious music. Quite a diverse aged congregation. A diverse aged choir too. Gorecki’s Totus tuus utterly beguiling us all in its simplicity and sparse beauty. It was such a pleasure to be in the midst of it all and seeing and feeling the ancient patterns of prayer come to life in the known holiness of the building once again.

Last week I made it to Choral Evensong in London in one of the churches that I used to go to when I worked down there. It too was stunning. It helps having one of the most striking Norman interiors in the world and it always helps having a choir who know just exactly what to do with the psalms. The psalm singing is one of the regular joys of St Mary’s, but the one I went to down south was special too. Just five singers in the choir, singing Anglican chant impeccably.

However the strongest thing that I’ll take away from that particular service was Benediction. It was simply stunning. The organist knew exactly how to bring the whole thing to a climax (and I do mean climax) when the Blessed Sacrament was revealed in the monstrance and the congregation was blessed. Organ at one end of the building, bell ringing servers at the other. It felt as thought he whole building was vibrating with faith and joy. (At first I thought that they had installed a zimbelstern, but it was just the servers doing their thing).

“O Saving Victim, opening wide. The gate of heaven to us below…” is one of the things that gets Sung at Evensong. Though I’ve enjoyed many a Benediction in the past, that service in London on that one particular night made those words seem more true, more astonishingly, palpably true than any service I’ve experienced before, either in that church of any other. It will stay with me for a long time.

I’ve no plans on introducing Benediction to Sunday evening worship in St Mary’s. I like what we do and I think it works well. However, it did make me think about other possible opportunities.