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WelcomeHallo again to all.

When did you last twice? Twicing will not turn up with the meaning we intend in many web searches, and it has nothing to do with romantic infidelity. It has fallen out of our common religious vocabulary, but we're quite sure you've done it, and we enjoy it very much when we can do it ourselves.

Twicing is the custom of attending church twice on a Sunday, well known to students of English religious sociology and to churchfolk of generations before the proliferation of the automobile. (It should be distinguished from bination, the custom of receiving or celebrating communion twice in one day, generally forbidden or at least strongly discouraged by ancient precedent and church law.) Two authoritative studies on church membership and attendance find that in the first decade of the twentieth century some 40 per cent of London morning churchgoers also went to a service in the evening.* Such attendance figures today would boggle the minds of statisticians and clergy alike.

The decline of twicing is laid at the feet of various social trends, all of which must certainly have contributed in some small way to it, but none of which can be wholly responsible on its own:

Sunday evening sport
wireless radio programming
incandescent lighting

For our part, we can't remember the last time we attended a sporting event on Sunday night, nor can we imagine a television programme riveting enough to keep us away from church. (For the record, though, we don't own a television.) The reasons commonly given for the decline of twicing point to churches as places where people formerly looked with more eagerness for light, activity, diversion, entertainment, fellowship and recreation as well as daily strength for daily needs. Common worship can still provide those things, but the church doesn't have a monopoly on them once the sun goes down.

This evening as we write we have just returned from a service of Evensong and Benediction at a small local parish church that has resumed the practice of that wonderfully appealing Cranmerian-Tridentine liturgical pastry. There are elements of the service that confuse us a bit—after all, should our desire really be to gaze upon and sing before the Blessed Sacrament or to consume it? But Benediction is a rich event in any parish, and Evensong on its own is a time-honoured way of greeting the evening with psalmody, scripture and song. The service strikes a note of calm and collectedness into our Sunday when we're able to attend, gathering the needs of our communities into its Suffrages, and guiding our thoughtful reflections into an evening sacrifice rising before the Holy Trinity even 'as the incense' that often accompanies the service.

For everyone we know, Sundays are busy and ought to be less so. The addition of another thing to do on the holy first day of the week is well-nigh impossible. Still, the Prayer Book in its steady wisdom provides for services at different parts of the day, urging us like Simon and Garfunkel to 'Slow down; you move too fast'. Twicing will probably never again be as common as it was once in our parts of the world, but perhaps because of that it's uncommonly rewarding in places where it does happen. Whether in Oxbridge college chapels, suburban Connecticut chancels, on remote Atlantic islands like Tristan da Cunha or in the northern parts of Saskatchewan, Sunday evensong remains an important if neglected landmark of Anglican life, culture and practice. Give it a try if your parish already offers Evensong, or try to revive a late afternoon service in your parish if there isn't one; ordination is not required to lead the service. We are certain that you'll find much good in the chance to twice in songs of thankfulness and praise.

See you next week.

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Last updated: 28 October 2007

* See Callum G. Brown, Religion and Society in Scotland Since 1707, p. 59 and The Death of Christian Britain: Understanding Secularisation, 1800-2000, p. 165.

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