What is Evensong?
Evensong is a worship service, not a concert.
Evensong, also known as evening prayer, is remarkable both for the centuries-old liturgical tradition it represents and for the atmosphere of contemplative devotion that enables it to remain deeply meaningful for worshipers today.
The service traces its origins to the daily cycle of services of the medieval church. Evensong has been said or sung regularly in its current form since the sixteenth century. All the words have been shaped and refined by long use and by renewed attempts to express the mysteries of God.
For some people it is music, not words, that carries them into the presence of God; and for others it is silence. Most of us need all three - words, music, and silence - to lead us into the spirit of worship. So this service provides a liturgical, architectural and musical space into which one may gather the preoccupations and anxieties of life, and hold them together with a recollection of God’s presence and work in and among us.
Many find that through participation by silent attention—while ministers and choir speak and sing biblical texts—they make the words and music their own. Once you have quietly released those preoccupations which may be cluttering your mind, you are free to go on to offer to God all that you are. It is then that this service is experienced for what it is - an act of worship, in the Spirit, expressing our thanksgiving and hopes to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
What to expect at Evensong?
- The service will usually be preceded by a thirty-minute musical program. This will vary but often features our guest organists, with occasional significant sacred works for choir and/or soloists.
- Sung Evensong is usually only about forty-five minutes long.
- Prayers, the Psalm and the Creed will be sung or chanted by the Evensong Singers, and at times, the congregation.
- By tradition, Evensong always includes a setting of the Magnificat (Mary’s song) and Nunc Dimittis (Simeon’s song). These biblical songs (or canticles) provide a reliable anchor for the service.
- There are usually at least two hymns in which the congregation is invited to participate.
- Very little of the service is spoken. Usually, Scripture is read and there are a few spoken prayers.
- There is no traditional sermon—the service is entirely based on scripture, and the worshiper is given space in which to contemplate as the Spirit leads.
- Care is taken to create a beautiful visual environment with candles and chancel preparation.
- There is usually a lovely reception following the service, and everyone is welcome.
Who should attend Evensong?
- Everyone and anyone who desires a short service that is strikingly different from daily life.
- Pre-teens through the elderly - anyone who longs for a contemplative encounter with God.
- Evensong has been extremely well-received by college-age people when they have the chance to discover it.
- The devout Christian, the questioning, the skeptic… there is room for you to ponder at your own pace.
- Members of any church, or any faith - anyone who wants to be part of this kind of worship environment.
- The evensong service is highly structured and liturgical, but this by no means suggests that one has to dress any particular way or meet any superficial criteria. Dress as you feel comfortable. Come as you are. Bring whomever you wish. It is the service that is formal and dignified. We join together humbly as God’s children, each equal in God’s sight. If you come in jeans or shorts because that’s what you are comfortable wearing, we’ll think we’ve done something right.
Who are the Evensong Singers?
The Evensong Singers is a fine group of experienced and dedicated choral musicians, mostly members of the Grace United Methodist Church Chancel Choir, occasionally joined by singers from the broader community. While many of the Singers have sung professionally, almost all serve in this capacity as volunteers. They serve out of love for this extraordinary form of worship and a desire to serve their church and community. In doing so, they experience a sense of purpose and community that is developed through preparing the finest in choral music and worship together.
We hope you'll stop in. Evensong might be just what you need. More details to come on the next Evensong at Grace.