Jottings, Curios, Ramblings and all



Curate’s Curios (No.17/ 2018)


Dear friends,

I love evensong. Weekday evenings, if I find myself in central London, I will always slip anonymously into Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s Cathedral and, alone and unnoticed, close my eyes and lose myself in the prayer and the music.


As a teenager, I was a chorister at a less grand cathedral, and it was there I fell in love with evensong, with the cadences of 16th century prayer and liturgy, with Anglican chant and the psalms, with the glories of English church music. In the choir stalls or as a worshipper, my adolescent self was poleaxed by the beauty, transfixed by the inexplicable holiness of the service, the place, the words, the music. Baffled by a style of worship I didn’t understand, nevertheless I understood that here I had found holiness and mystery and the transcendent, unimaginable God of love.


I’m not alone in loving evensong. While church attendance in England is generally in decline, worship in cathedrals is on the increase, with attendance up almost 20 per cent over the last 10 years. Most of that increase is attendance at midweek services – it’s not Sunday morning Eucharist which is fuelling the growth, but midweek choral evensong.


It is remarkably popular, this eccentric English service. Cobbled together from the ancient monastic services of Vespers and Compline and unique to Anglicanism, evensong has  been  a  defining  feature  of  the  church since Cranmer  first  started  crafting  liturgy  for  Henry  VIII. It is as English as afternoon tea and the Changing of the Guards and full of features which only exist in evensong – music and prayers you won’t hear anywhere else.


But while in some ways it is an easy and obvious thing for me to love – I’m a musician after all – it may be harder to imagine what other people get out of this service.


I think the answer is that lots of people are looking for the numinous. In a world where church is often expected to be approachable and relevant, to sell itself, evensong is utterly unconcerned with any of that, refuses absolutely to explain itself, to update, to make itself more accessible. Evensong is about God and about prayer. In the endless, unchanging cycle of daily worship, evensong goes on with or without worshippers. You are welcome to attend, but you’re not needed.


And there is something astonishing and uplifting about that, something refreshing about worship in which all that is demanded of you is that you are there. You are not required to do anything, simply to be.


Which is why I think evensong is particularly suited to the worshipping life of Hornsey Parish Church. We are a church which values prayer and silence and the discipline of showing up at church. We are a church which understands that listening is as important as doing and that listening in silence to the Bible, to liturgy and to music means listening for God’s voice. And we are a church which values beauty, which thinks that the arts are a place of encounter and of mission, as well as something to be prized in their own right.

We are not a cathedral so we won’t be attempting to make choral evensong a regular Sunday service. But starting this week it will be an occasional service which we offer to add to the richness of our contemplative worship. Come. Let the music and the prayers of others nourish you in your own silence.

O GOD, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed: Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that both our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee we being defended from the fear of our enemies may pass our time in rest and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

Upcoming events
Week of Accompanied Prayer
Sunday, 13 May 2018 00:00
This year our Week of Accompanied Prayer takes a different form as we join Thy Kingdom Come, a global wave of prayer which invites Christians around the world to pray for more people to come to know Jesus Christ. This Church of England i…
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Come and sing Evensong
Sunday, 13 May 2018 14:00
Rehearsal at2pm, service at5pm.Come and join the choir to sing a beautiful service of Choral Evensong. Music available beforehand if required. Please speak to LOUISA for more information.
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