What is Evensong?!
The girls’ choir at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, singing Evensong.
In case it hasn’t come to your attention, you should know that All Saints is hosting a service of Evensong at 4 PM on Sunday, November 3 (All Saints’ Sunday). Many thanks to our organist, Chris Grocholski, for organizing the service and to the many singers from other congregations who will be participating! We’ll also be welcoming a guest preacher, the Rev’d Dr. Hilary Bogert-Winkler of Montreal Dio, known to those participating as the teacher of the online class on the Gospel of Matthew. This is a grand undertaking and deserving of the parish’s support.
We’ve had a couple of inquiries from people to whom Evensong is an unfamiliar concept, so here’s a brief introduction.
Evensong is, as one might conclude from the name, Sung Evening Prayer. It is a beloved part of the Anglican tradition, beginning in the sixteenth century and maintained to this day in many of the English cathedrals. For centuries, every parish church conducted (or at least was expected to conduct) Matins (Morning Prayer) on Sunday mornings and Evensong in the evenings. Hence, the service can be very simple – with the music amounting to no more than a psalm and a hymn – or it can be performed at a professional level with a full choral setting of the prayers and canticles, chanted psalms, and an anthem.
Evensong is valuable not only because of the beauty of the liturgy and music but also because it is a service in which anyone can participate, whether or not they are baptized or know anything about church. Sometimes choral Evensong is criticized for being more like a concert than a worship service, but at its best, it can speak of God to those who would be comfortable in a concert and much less so in a worship service (such as someone who might happen to wander into a cathedral in the late afternoon), and perhaps invite them to explore further into what worship and the church might have to offer. So perhaps Evensong would be a good time to invite someone to come to church with you!
Our service on All Saints’ Sunday will use the text of the Canadian Book of Common Prayer 1962. As you listen to the choir’s music and participate in the prayers, you are invited to remember particularly those who have loved and cared for you in your life, formed your spirituality, and given you an example of life well lived. Chris has composed several new pieces of music especially for this occasion, and it will be a beautiful and prayerful experience!