Project Canterbury

The Middle Way
Suggestions for a Practicable Ceremonial

By the Reverend Latta Griswold, M.A.

Milwaukee: Morehouse, 1928.

Chapter III. Evening Prayer or Evensong

WHAT has already been said concerning the morning office applies in most particulars to that of the evening as well, and repetition will be avoided.

The hour for Evensong will depend on local circumstances, and whether it will be wholly or only partly sung should be determined by the capacity of the choir and the taste of the congregation. If some one could devise a method by which more people could he induced to attend evening services, he would be rendering the Church a great good. Always a difficult task, it is increasingly so since about ninety per cent of the population have adopted the practice of listening in on the radio, while the other ten appear to be attending the movies or riding in automobiles. It is scarcely necessary to say there is no point in getting people together on a Sunday evening except for religious purposes. Sheer stunts attract people in some places, but is it worth while? The worst plan of all, followed in many parishes, is to omit the evening service altogether. This is to forget that the Divine Office is not only for the edification of the people but for the honor of Almighty God.

[With one exception my own experiments with the evening service have not had sufficient success to deserve comment. But for the past eight years during the summer months we have a shortened Evensong, with full choir, at 6 o'clock out-of-doors. It is held in a singularly beautiful spot in a lovely garden placed at the disposal of the parish. There is always an address, frequently by a visiting clergyman. The normal congregation for Evensong in church rarely exceeds fifty persons; but at this garden service the attendance averages between two hundred and three hundred. It has become an established and popular feature of the parochial life in Lenox. As beautiful a setting and as convenient accessories are not generally available; nevertheless the great success of this service under favorable conditions commends it as an experiment that others well might try. On rainy Sundays the service is held in the church; but usually there are not more than three rainy Sundays in a summer.]

If Morning Prayer has been said on Sunday, it is usually desirable to pass from the Opening Sentence at once to the Lord's Prayer. Psalms, lessons, and sermon should be short, for it is generally advisable for the service not to last over an hour. The Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis should invariably be used as the canticles. The Magnificat is the memorial of the Incarnation, and in some respects the most important part of the service.

Where the incumbent is single-handed, he will find it easier and more useful to give an instruction at Evensong rather than preach a conventional sermon. The office usually should end after the Collect for Aid, particularly if Matins has been said in the morning. Preliminary congregational singing, practice of hymns, and the like, are some times successful if the parson or. the organist is a good leader. When the organist is capable of it, a preliminary recital is appropriate.

The singing of a hymn, for example O Brightness of the immortal Father's face (No. 12) or Before the ending of the day (No. 28), is particularly effective after the final collect and benediction. It should be sung kneeling and very softly. In a certain parish Tarry with me, O my Saviour (No. 31) is invariably used for the evening recessional; a custom that has greatly endeared itself to the people.

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