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What is Evensong?

Evensong is a combination of two of the seven offices (services) that made up the daily round of monastic prayer. These were the evening offices of Vespers and Compline which consisted of responses, psalms, canticles, readings and prayers. The liturgy of Evensong was first written down in 1549 in Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer. Several revisions to the book were made over subsequent years with the definitive version published in 1662. Widely known for the beauty and richness of its language, including Miles Coverdale’s translation of the psalms, the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer remains the official prayer book of the Church of England.

The service of Evensong is renowned for its choral music. Several sections of the liturgy are sung by the choir though there are various ways in which everyone can participate. For example, it is an ancient custom in the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis as the choir sings the first two lines of the Gloria (‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost’) to make the sign of the cross and to bow one’s head in honour of God the Holy Trinity.

Ever since its foundation this church has been a house of prayer. The first recorded priest of St Mary’s Whitkirk was Paulinus who was the priest here in 1185 AD. The worship we share today gives a powerful sense of connecting the present with the past and of being part of a great, and continuing, tradition. Thank you for being part of this act of worship as we join our prayers and praises with those that have been offered here at St Mary’s for over eight hundred years.


Music

The psalm appointed for tonight’s Evensong is Psalm 65 and it is sung to an Anglican chant written by the English composer and organist James Turle (1802-1882). He was organist of Westminster Abbey for fifty-one years from 1831 until his death in 1882. As well as writing a number of Anglican chants, James Turle is perhaps best-known for composing the hymn tune ‘WESTMINSTER’ which he set to the words of the hymn ‘My God, how wonderful thou art’.

The evening canticles (Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis) are sung to a plainsong setting with fauxbourdons. The English translation of the French word ‘fauxbourdon’ is ‘false bass’. ‘Plainsong with fauxbourdons’ may be described as a simple harmonisation of plainchant in four parts with no development or expansion of the musical theme. Tonight’s setting was written by the English composer and organist Thomas Morley (1557-1602). He was appointed organist of St Giles Cripplegate in 1588 and organist of St Paul’s Cathedral in 1591. The following year he joined the Chapel Royal.

The anthem ‘Thou visitest the earth’ is a setting of the words of verse 9 and verse 12 of Psalm 65. The music was written by the English composer and organist Maurice Greene (1696-1755). He was appointed organist of the Chapel Royal in 1727 and ‘Master of the King’s Musick’ in 1735.


The Service of Choral Evensong

Our worship begins at the sound of the bell, please stand as the sacred ministers enter, during which the introit hymn is sung.

Hymn

All creatures of our God and King,
Lift up your voice and with us sing
Alleluia, alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam:
O praise him, O praise him,
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
Alleluia, alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest us both warmth and light:
O praise him, O praise him,
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise him, alleluia!
The flow’rs and fruits that in thee grow,
Let him his glory also show.
O praise him, O praise him,
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship him in humbleness,
O praise him, alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One. 
O praise him, O praise him,
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. 

Words: William Henry Draper (1855-1933) alt.
based on the ‘Cantico di Frate Sole’ of St Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)
Music: melody from ‘Geistliche Kirchengesang’, Cologne (1623)
arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
Hymn Tune: LASST UNS ERFREUEN

Please remain standing.

Dearly beloved brethren,
the scripture moveth us in sundry places 
to acknowledge and confess
our manifold sins and wickedness;
and that we should not dissemble nor cloke them
before the face of Almighty God our heavenly Father;
but confess them with an humble,
lowly, penitent, and obedient heart;
to the end that we may obtain forgiveness of the same,
by his infinite goodness and mercy.
And although we ought at all times
humbly to acknowledge our sins before God;
yet ought we most chiefly so to do,
when we assemble and meet together
to render thanks for the great benefits
that we have received at his hands,
to set forth his most worthy praise,
to hear his most holy Word,
and to ask those things
which are requisite and necessary,
as well for the body as the soul.
Wherefore I pray and beseech you,
as many as are here present,
to accompany me with a pure heart and humble voice
unto the throne of the heavenly grace, saying after me:

General Confession

Please kneel or sit.

Almighty and most merciful Father,
We have erred and strayed
from thy ways like lost sheep,
We have followed too much
the devices and desires of our own hearts,
We have offended against thy holy laws,
We have left undone those things
which we ought to have done,
And we have done those things
which we ought not to have done,
And there is no health in us:
But thou, O Lord,
have mercy upon us miserable offenders;
Spare thou them, O God,
which confess their faults.
Restore thou them that are penitent,
According to thy promises
declared unto mankind
in Christ Jesu our Lord:
And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake;
That we may hereafter
live a godly, righteous, and sober life,
To the glory of thy holy Name.
Amen.

The Absolution

Said by the Priest.

Almighty God,
the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who desireth not the death of a sinner,
but rather that he may turn
from his wickedness and live;
and hath given power
and commandment to his Ministers,
to declare and pronounce
to his people, being penitent,
the Absolution and Remission of their sins:
He pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent
and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel.
Wherefore let us beseech him to grant us
true repentance and his Holy Spirit,
that those things may please him
which we do at this present,
and that the rest of our life hereafter
may be pure and holy;
so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Opening Responses (‘Preces’)

The ‘Preces and Responses’ are sung alternately by the cantor and the choir.

O Lord, open thou our lips.

And our mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

O God, make speed to save us.

O Lord, make haste to help us.

Please stand.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son:
and to the Holy Ghost;

As it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be:
world without end. Amen.

Praise ye the Lord.

The Lord’s Name be praised.

Psalmody

Please remain standing.

The psalms are sacred poems from the Old Testament dating back over three thousand years. The music for the psalm is known as Anglican chant, a short repeating tune.

Psalm 65

Thou O God art praisèd in Sion:
And unto thee shall the vow be performed in Jerusalem.

Thou that hearest the prayer:
Unto thee shall all flesh come.

My misdeeds prevail against me:
O be thou merciful unto our sins.

Blessèd is the man whom thou choosest and receivest unto thee:
He shall dwell in thy court
and shall be satisfied with the pleasures of thy house
even of thy holy temple.

Thou shalt shew us wonderful things in thy righteousness
O God of our salvation:
Thou that art the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of them that remain in the broad sea.

Who in his strength setteth fast the mountains:
And is girded about with power.

Who stilleth the raging of the sea:
And the noise of his waves and the madness of the people.

They also that dwell in the uttermost parts of the earth
shall be afraid at thy tokens:
Thou that makest the outgoings of the morning
and evening to praise thee.

Thou visitest the earth and blessest it:
Thou makest it very plenteous.

The river of God is full of water:
Thou preparest their corn for só thou providest for the earth.

Thou waterest her furrows
thou sendest rain into the little valleys thereof:
Thou makest it soft with the drops of rain
and blessest the increase of it.

Thou crownest the year with thy goodness:
And thy clouds drop fatness.

They shall drop upon the dwellings of the wilderness:
And the little hills shall rejoice on every side.

The folds shall be full of sheep:
The valleys also shall stand so thick with corn
that they shall laugh and sing.

Glory be to the Father:
And to the Son and to the Holy Ghost:
As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be:
World without end. Amen.

Music: James Turle (1802-1882)

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 29.1-20

Please sit.

At the end the reader says:

Here endeth the First Lesson.

Magnificat

Please stand.

The Magnificat is the song of praise Mary sang after learning that she would give birth to Jesus, as recounted in Luke’s gospel (1.46).

My soul doth magnify the Lord:
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded:
the lowliness of his hand-maiden.
For behold from henceforth:
All generations shall call me blessèd.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me:
And holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him:
Throughout all generations.
He hath shewèd strength with his arm:
He hath scattered the proud
in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat:
And hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things:
And the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy
hath holpen his servant Israel:
As he promised to our forefathers
Abraham and his seed for ever.

Glory be to the Father:
And to the Son and to the Holy Ghost:
As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be:
World without end. Amen.

Plainsong with fauxbourdons
Thomas Morley (1557-1602)

New Testament Lesson

Mark 6.7-29

Please sit.

At the end the reader says:

Here endeth the Second Lesson.

Nunc Dimittis

Please stand.

The Nunc Dimittis is also known as the Song of Simeon. Luke’s gospel (2.29) tells us that old Simeon, a devout Jew, had been promised that he would not die until he had seen the promised Saviour. When Jesus was presented to him at the temple in Jerusalem, he at once recognised the Messiah and uttered these words of farewell.

Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace:
according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation;
Which thou hast preparèd before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles:
And to be the glory of thy people Israel.

Glory be to the Father:
And to the Son and to the Holy Ghost:
As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be:
World without end. Amen.

Plainsong with fauxbourdons
Thomas Morley (1557-1602)

The Apostles’ Creed

Please remain standing.

I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried:
He descended into hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand
of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge
the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
The holy Catholick Church;
The Communion of Saints;
The Forgiveness of sins;
The Resurrection of the body,
And the life everlasting.
Amen.

The Lesser Litany

These prayers bind together themes of praise, mercy and the desire for God’s protection as night draws in. The Lesser Litany is sung alternately by the cantor and the choir.

The Lord be with you.

And with thy spirit.

Let us pray.

Please kneel or sit.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Christ, have mercy upon us.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father

Which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
In earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
Amen.

The Responses

These are sung alternately by the cantor and the choir.

O Lord, shew thy mercy upon us.

And grant us thy salvation.

O Lord, save the Queen.

And mercifully hear us when we call upon thee.

Endue thy Ministers with righteousness.

And make thy chosen people joyful.

O Lord, save thy people.

And bless thine inheritance.

Give peace in our time, O Lord.

Because there is none other that fighteth for us,
but only thou, O God.

O God, make clean our hearts within us.

And take not thy Holy Spirit from us.

The Collect of the Day

O Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to hear us;
and grant that we,
to whom thou hast given an hearty desire to pray,
may by thy mighty aid be defended and comforted
in all dangers and adversities;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

The Collect for Peace

O God, from whom all holy desires,
all good counsels, and all just works do proceed:
Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give;
that both our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments,
and also that by thee we being defended
from the fear of our enemies
may pass our time in rest and quietness;
through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Amen.

The Collect for Aid against all Perils

Lighten our darkness,
we beseech thee, O Lord;
and by thy great mercy defend us
from all perils and dangers of this night;
for the love of thy only Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen.

The Anthem

‘Thou visitest the earth’

Thou visitest the earth and blessest it, and blessest it:
And crownest the year, the year with thy goodness.

Thou visitest the earth and blessest it, and blessest it:
Thou crownest the year, the year with thy goodness.

Words: Psalm 65 verses 9, 12
Music: Maurice Greene (1696-1755)

The Sermon

Hymn

Please stand.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘Come unto me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
Thy head upon my breast.’
I came to Jesus as I was,
So weary, worn and sad;
I found in him a resting place,
And he has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘Behold, I freely give
The living water, thirsty one;
Stoop down and drink and live.’
I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘I am this dark world’s light;
Look unto me, thy morn shall rise,
And all thy day be bright.’
I looked to Jesus, and I found
In him my star, my sun;
And in that light of life I’ll walk
Till trav’lling days are done.

Words: Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)
Music: English traditional melody
adapted and arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
Hymn Tune: KINGSFOLD

The Prayers

Please kneel or sit.

Hymn

During this hymn a collection, our financial offering in support of the work of the church both at St. Mary’s and across our diocese, is taken. Please stand.

The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at thy behest;
To thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

We thank thee that thy Church, unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.

As o’er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.

The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren ‘neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.

So be it, Lord; thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away;
Thy kingdom stands, and grows for ever,
Till all thy creatures own thy sway.

Words: John Ellerton (1826-1893)
Music: Clement Cotterill Scholefield (1839-1904)
Hymn Tune: SAINT CLEMENT

The Blessing or The Grace

Thank you for being part of this evening’s act of worship.

The date of the next Choral Evensong is Sunday 7 August at 6.00 pm.

Please follow the instructions of the stewards as you leave the building and remember to clean your hands.


Donations to St Mary's

St Mary’s is a charity which receives no funding from the government and is entirely dependent on donations and fees to keep operating.

If you'd like to donate to support our work you can give contactlessly as you leave the building by tapping your contactless card device against our card reader. You can also leave cash in the offering plate by the door.

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Extracts from The Book of Common Prayer, the rights in which are vested in the Crown, are reproduced by permission of the Crown’s patentee, Cambridge University Press. BCP 1662.

CCL licence: 668063