Last Saturday we embarked on a new liturgical venture – Evening Prayer each first Saturday of the month at six o’clock. A simple service. No sermon. Said at the moment, although we are working towards a full blown Sung Evensong by the end of summer. All in the structure and language of what I would call 1662, but the American Church refers to as 1928, (which in the Daily Office differs little from 1892 and 1789.) Of course there are disparities of prayer. For some strange reason they don’t pray for our most gracious Sovereign Lady, Queen Elizabeth. Oh well.
And people came. And promised to come again. And I don’t think that it was the wine and nibbles served afterwards that brought them into church. It was the warmth of a service that has been all but sidelined in most parishes, and yet surely retains a great deal of power and spirituality.
Of course the language is archaic and hopelessly exclusive. In a church that is so determined to be linguistically neutral and politically correct, with its emphasis on “mission” (sic) and good works, the cadences of Cranmer and the King James Version of the bible must fall like good seed among, and I can’t decide here, either rocks or thorns.
Yet at six o’clock on a Saturday, come hail or high water, old words take on fresh depths. A framework of prayer leading into prayer and silent meditation. Timeless, ancient and yet modern. O Lord, open thou our lips.