I went to Evensong for the first time on Saturday night and despite having a husband (your pastor!) who initially had mixed reviews about the service, I loved it! I discovered the difference between his experience and my own: he looks out at a group of muffled, masked parishioners whose expressions he has difficulty reading. My experience? I felt that I was back in church – but outdoors, with a delightful breeze, grass under my bare feet, birdsong, liturgy in my bones, and to my left and right, my body (of Christ!)
The whole service was under 40 minutes (to this pastor’s wife, that’s a good thing). 🙂 As I was sitting there, I thought to myself: if ever there was a service to introduce a seeker to church (and/or liturgical worship), this is it! Church can be scary. Even for seasoned church goers, attending a new / different church can be intimidating. But … outside? Masked (so no one can read my expression or level of participation)? In an experimental setting?
Evensong is an innovation of the Anglican Church – combining the monastic “Compline” service with Reformed theology and song. Matt and I first fell in love with this evening service when we began taking holidays in French monasteries. We would simply throw the kids, pajama’ed, into the car at 8pm and when they awoke 12 hours later, it would be to a breakfast of baguettes and bowls of hot chocolate at the welcoming Monastery of Bec Hellouin. Every evening we would attend the 8pm Compline service which was summed up by Amie Kate at age four: “Is this how the monks get tucked into bed?” Yes. The whole service is designed to “tuck us into bed” with wonderful Scriptures referring to rest, God’s protection, and the hope that we will wake again in the morning. (In medieval Europe, this was not a guaranteed thing! I suppose it still isn’t guaranteed, but we aren’t as aware of this fact …)
Our Evensong service is neither very high brow, nor even very musical. Aside from a couple of songs, it is spoken (familiar) liturgy at the close of day (at the “even” between day and night). In England, it is called “The Atheist's Favorite Church Service” because it packs so much beautiful poetry (the Psalms), Scripture, and music into a short period of time. It descends from the time of Jesus when the Jews were praying at regular times throughout the day, which was then picked up by the Christian monastic communities. Evensong’s strength is that it is working with a tried and true liturgy that has sustained people for more than three millenia. (For people who like to geek out over music or history, watch this very funny history of evensong).
So while we have the weather, and we need one another, consider coming to Evensong! And even better yet, bring someone who just may need a nudge toward Jesus and his wonderful, awkward body (that includes you and me).