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Hallo again to all.

We love the rhythm the Daily Office gives our days. We travel with the Book of Common Prayer either in our satchel or electronically on some device or other. There is a sense of connection with other Christians around the globe and with those in past history when we say or sing these services. Our forbears started and ended each day gathered together in their home for Matins and Evening Prayer, and one of our relatives until her dying day, and despite stroke and other ailments, could recite the volume titles from the spines of the encyclopædia that were in front of where she knelt as a girl during family prayers each day. She also knew her prayers by heart, but, for us children of the present generation, we were more impressed with her knowledge of the encylopædia!

The pinnacle for us is participating in one of the services of the Daily Office in a church or cathedral with choir. It doesn't matter if we are in the pews quietly praying or in the stalls singing and praying. The veil between heaven and earth becomes thin in a sanctuary filled with transcendent music and ageless prayer and sacred texts. It is a deeply worshipful experience that goes beyond words and engages the soul directly with the divine.

We had the joy of being in London a few years ago for a short visit. As good tourists, we paid our entrance fee and walked slowly through Westminster Abbey with the helpful audio guide provided. But we also came back another day for Evensong. We went to Christopher Wren's St Paul's Cathedral for Sunday morning Eucharist and later that afternoon ended up at St Martin-in-the-Fields for Evensong. At each of these services, we were welcomed into the communal worship life of the Church. It was clear that all participating in the choirs or at the altars or as sidesmen, deans & vergers, knew this was a time of worship and prayer for all in attendance. How gracious they are about sharing these beautiful spaces with the many transients like us. And we noticed that their attitude of 'this is living worship', expressed succinctly and without admonitions in the pew sheets, was absorbed by all in attendance, whether visitor or regular attendee.

We attended Matins at a church in a city on the East Coast of North America for a number of years. When we could not attend in person, we listened via the Internet or radio. The preaching was inspirational, the choir was magnificent, the congregation was welcoming. They knew they had members who could not be present in body. Weekly, the preacher would welcome those of us listening from afar. And, from wherever we were, we joined in the prayers and hymns along with those in the pews. When a new hymnal was introduced, the officiant made sure to tell a group of ladies listening from Fiji that the new volume would be sent to them.

Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 
( Why, you may well ask, this paean to Matins, Evensong, and Compline?

We had a visit with a friend who attended Compline last Sunday at a local parish. This parish has offered sung Compline for about seven years though in recent times on a somewhat irregular schedule. The service locally had been modeled after the format suggested by Peter Hallock and used at the Cathedral of St Mark in Seattle Washington. That service has become an institution and is broadcast on radio and Internet to those unable to attend in person. It has attracted spiritual-but-not-religious folk who attend regularly. It provides a time of reflective prayer and worship to young and old. To get a feel for the power of this, there is a short documentary video one can watch.

Our friend enjoys the cleansing end-of-the-day, beginning-of-the-week feel to Compline on Sunday evenings. She, like us, views the services of the Daily Office as worshipful expressions of our beliefs and faith. Imagine her surprise when she sat down with the pew sheet: The second word on the inside cover was 'performance'.

Compline as performance? She brought us the pew sheet. We read it through. Unfortunately, this time the sung service of Compline seemed to be replaced with a concert based on Compline. Soloists were named, a long biographical sketch of the conductor was included. No mention was made of the history or role of Compline in the worship life of our tradition. No mention of welcoming the congregation to a time of prayer. Perhaps we are being too picky. Perhaps it is enough the service is being offered no matter the circumstances.

We were left to ponder: When is a service worship and when is it performance? Does it matter? Should it matter?

Please drop us a line or comment on our Facebook page to let us know your thoughts.

See you next week.


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All of us at Anglicans Online

21 September 2014

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