Evensong and Preaching
Yours truly is going to preach at Evensong for the first time in his life this Sunday. At seminary it would have been possible for me to preach once at Evensong when I was a senior. It was voluntary and I chose not to do so. I have never served in a parish where Evensong & Sermon was a regular service. In my former parish in Indiana, when we had Evensong & Benediction at different festivals through the year, I would almost always have preached already to the same congregation at Mass in the morning.
Preaching has been an occasional and occasionally important part of the Daily Office across the centuries. In the early Church, bishops often preached at Evening Prayer on Sundays in their cathedrals. The Office seems to have been an important occasion for instruction by parish priests. Sermons, of course, are part of the eucharistic celebration of the Church. (The current Prayer Book, in fact, is the first one even to permit formally the preaching of a sermon at Morning or Evening Prayer.)
I don’t know how long sermons have been a part of Sunday Evensong among Anglicans, perhaps from the Reformation, perhaps it’s part of the inheritance of the tradition of Christians having preaching. Dwight Moody, Billy Graham, Robert Schuller and others in the United States were not the first great national preachers. Here are a few names you will recognize: Peter, Paul, Philip, John Chrysostom, Francis of Assisi, John Donne.
The Eucharist is often abused for, in the words of Aidan Kavanagh, “ulterior motives.” I am always sad when the visitors remark to me that it was nice to hear a sermon on the Gospel – who knows what they are enduring at home? But I think the most usual subversion of the liturgy is probably pedagogy. A relationship with Jesus Christ - and especially the liturgical celebration of that relationship - cannot be taught.
A little tension between preaching and teaching in the pulpit, however, is probably not a bad thing – tradition just wants something greater. The eucharistic sermon is the opportunity for the pastor of the community to say something about how the Gospel of Jesus is lived out in our community and what it may be calling us as a community and each of us as individuals to do and become. Some teaching is inevitable and appropriate.
The sermon at Evensong: I could finesse the question of the character of preaching on Sunday evenings much more easily if we were in Year One of the two-year lectionary cycle for the Daily Office, but we are in Year Two. In Year One, the second lesson at Evensong would be from the Gospel. In Year Two, the second lesson is from one of the other books of the New Testament. As members of my parish know, I almost never preach on anything but a gospel lesson. This Sunday evening we will hear from the Book of Isaiah and the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians.
A series of Prayer Book Studies were published in the 1950s and 1960s as a prelude to the revision of the Prayer Book. The scholarship in them is generally very good. These studies reflect a deep commitment to the Gospel and to Anglican liturgical worship. I’m still digging for information about preaching at the Office and about the structure of the Daily Office Lectionary. My sense at the moment is that except on the greater feasts and fasts of the Year and during the great seasons, the lessons at the Office themselves are the point, not the liturgical day.
Solemn Evensong & Benediction has gone remarkably well the first two weeks at Saint Mary’s. We had seventy-six people here the first Sunday evening and fifty-one last Sunday. Most people who come on Sunday evenings do not come to Saint Mary’s on Sunday mornings – but we could not offer the liturgy without the support of some who do.
Sometimes parishes like ours don’t get much credit among ourselves or others for being a “Bible Church.” I daresay there is no parish community that I know of in the Episcopal Church or any other that proclaims Scripture more than an Anglo-catholic parish like Saint Mary’s. Our doors are open daily for the full round of Prayer Book worship. When I say Saint Mary’s is “full Gospel” I usually do so with a smile. People may think I am trying to be a little humorous. In truth, I am very, very serious. I think it will be good for me to deal with Saint Paul and the Prophet Isaiah. It is about time. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Sean, Robert, Charles, Alex, Marion, Harold, Olga, Eleanor, John, Peter, Michael, Kenneth, Ursula, Tessie, Jennifer, John, Maureen, Marie, Jake, Rick, Edgar, Joanne, Joseph, Arthur, priest, and Charles, priest, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Patrick, Edward, Christopher, Andrew, Robert, Joseph, Mark, Ned and David . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 21: 1977 Edward Parker Amos; January 23: 1964 Walter R. Noe, Jr.; 1990: Mary Grantham Adams; January 25: 1995 Giselle Klopstock.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-10, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, John 1:29-41 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, January 19, by Canon Garrison and on Saturday, January 26 by Father Smith . . . NOTES ON MUSIC . . . The prelude before the Solemn Mass on Sunday will be Psalm Prelude, set 1, number 2 (Op. 32) by Herbert Howells (1892-1983) and the postlude will be Fanfare by William Mathias (1934-1992). The Howells piece is entitled “Psalm Prelude” because it is based on Psalm 37, v. 12, “But the lowly shall possess the land; they will delight in abundance of peace.” The Mass setting is Mass in the Dorian mode, also by Howells. This setting is certainly in Howells’ unique style, but differs from many of his other works in the way it hearkens back to an earlier style, being very similar in compositional technique and spirit to Renaissance music. It is wonderful liturgical music, and was first sung at High Mass at Westminster Cathedral, London in 1912. The anthem at Communion is Christ, whose glory fills the skies by T. Frederick H. Candlyn (1892-1964). Candlyn is well-known because of his distinguished tenure as Organist and Master of Choristers at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Faces of Ground Zero: We highly recommend this exhibit of life-size photographs of Ground Zero workers now at Grand Central Terminal through Sunday, January 20 . . . Week of Prayer for Christian Unity continues through Friday, January 25, the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul . . . The parish office will be closed on Monday, January 21, in observance of Martin Luther King Day. The church will only be open for the Noonday Office and the 12:15 PM Mass . . . From Sean Cassidy: “I want to thank everyone for the cards, prayers and many good wishes for the “radiosurgical” procedure I had on January 16. Things went very well and I am looking at full recovery. Thank you, friends” . . . Brother Lawrence Guild is meeting on Sunday, January 20, following the Solemn Mass . . . The new eagle lectern is a gift of James Saakvitne who was organist at Saint John’s Church, East Boston, Massachusetts as a teenager. Saint John’s was built in 1897. When the parish was closed, he purchased it. It looks great in Saint Mary’s. We are most thankful. It needs very little work by the church’s wood restorer – and we need to affix in an appropriate way a holder for a microphone. We plan to leave it in the church so that it can be seen and enjoyed for another few weeks before sending it out to be restored. Jamie, thank you! . . . The Board of Trustees will meet in Saint Benedict’s Study at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, January 22 . . . The Bookstore (Gift Shop) is now open during the week (Monday thru Friday) from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM and on Sunday after the Solemn Mass at 11:00 AM . . . Attendance last Sunday 251.
A SPECIAL ORGAN RECITAL ON CANDLEMAS EVE . . . On Friday evening, February 1, at 5:00 PM organist Thomas Lee Bailey, of Saint Paul’s Church, Brooklyn, will play Olivier Messiaen’s La Nativité. Messiaen is one of the most important organ composers of the twentieth century and La Nativité is one of his great works. The Solemn Liturgy for the Presentation (The Blessing of Candles, Procession & Solemn Mass) will be at the usual time of 6:00 PM; but, again, please note this recital begins at 5:00 PM.
GROUND ZERO VOLUNTEERS NEEDED . . . Saint Paul's Chapel (Broadway and Fulton Street) is the site of Episcopal relief efforts at Ground Zero. Teams of twelve volunteers work twelve-hour shifts providing physical and spiritual aid around the clock to those who work at the disaster site. Several teams comprised of members and friends of Saint Mary's have volunteered at Saint Paul's on several occasions since "9/11." Now, another such opportunity has arisen. Hearty volunteers are needed for a twelve-hour shift beginning at 8 PM on Wednesday, January 23 and ending at 8 AM on Thursday, January 24. Many have already signed up, but there are still a few spaces available. Interested individuals should sign-up during the coffee hours this Sunday or by contacting the curate, Fr. Weiler, via telephone (212-869-5830) or email (email@example.com)
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Two new Christian Formation classes are, or shortly will be, underway this week. Father Richard Corney, retired Professor of Old Testament at General Seminary, began his fascinating class, entitled, “Toward Baptism in the Old Testament” on Wednesday, January 16 at 7 PM. It will meet in Saint Benedict’s Study each Wednesday for four weeks in order to explore deeply the Old Testament lessons of the Easter Vigil service. John Beddingfield will lead what is sure to be an informative one session only class Saturday afternoon from 3 PM to 5 PM on January 19 entitled “Getting to Know the Book of Common Prayer.”
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Monday Saint Agnes (Martin Luther King Holiday)
Federal Holiday Schedule: One Mass only 12:15 PM
Tuesday Saint Vincent, Deacon & Martyr
Eve of the Conversion of Saint Paul 6:00 PM
Friday The Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle Abstinence
The end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Saturday Saint Timothy & Saint Titus, Companions of Saint Paul
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Matthew Weiler, curate, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assistant,
The Reverend Canon Maurice Garrison, The Reverend Amilcar Figueroa,
The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.