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Compline in Seattle

1 March 2016

A few years ago there used to be debates in the Christian blogosphere about “attactional” versus “missional” churches. I was never quite sure what the debates were really about, but I was reminded of them when I read these articles about Compline in Seattle and Evensong in university chapels:

Chant Matters – Compline at St Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle – What is in Kelvin’s Head?:

That service breaks almost (and that almost is important, as we shall see) rule in the How to Attract Young People Big Book of Church Growth.

The building is as close to hideous as makes no odds.
The choir sing from behind a pillar and can’t be seen.
You don’t get a service sheet on the way in. You don’t in fact get anything.
The service is uncompromisingly old fashioned.
The service is based around Plainsong Chant.
There are no guitars. Not one.
It is unaccompanied by anything.
You don’t get to do anything.
You don’t sing.
You don’t speak.
You don’t engage.
You don’t form community.

And still they come. Hundreds of them. Every week they come.

And there was another article, too: Looking for Britain’s future leaders? Try evensong – Telegraph:

one evening pursuit, which has been enjoying an unexpected boost in popularity in the two universities is as far from the cliché of raucous student life as it is possible to imagine – choral evensong.

College chaplains have seen a steady but noticeable increase in attendances at the early evening services which combine contemplative music with the 16th Century language of the Book of Common Prayer.

A few years ago there was quite a craze for flashmobs — people would send text messages to friends to gather in a public place at a certain time for some kind of event or happening, and some people began having flashmobs for Compline and Evansong. One of the most impressive was was when one of the “occupy” groups of a few years ago occupied an open space near St Paul’s Cathedral in London. The cathedral was closed in reaction to it, and a flashmob gathered for Flash Evensong on the cathedral steps. If you are in England, look on Twitter. You might be able to catch @FlashCompline or @FlashEvensong, or do your own.

clergyCandlesIn Orthodox Churches it is rare to have sung Compline, at least in parish churches. The only time I’ve known Great Compline to be sung is on Christmas Eve, when it is usually followed by Matins as part of the Vigil of the Nativity. And Little Compline is normally said, not sung, though it can be said anywhere.

Many parishes also do not have Vespers any more, but perhaps if Vespers were served more often, more people would attend. At St Nicholas Church in Brixton, Johannesburg, the Vespers of Forgiveness at the beginning of Great Lent is usually well attends, but less so on other occasions.

Christian worship is really something for the Christian community. It is not intended to be evangelistic. Services like Vespers and Compline are offering the time of day to God, but sometimes just doing that can speak to people more loudly than the words of evangelists.



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