I usually go to church every Sunday morning and attend a service of Holy Eucharist, so it was a strange and somewhat unsettling feeling to not have my Sunday morning follow its usual pattern. Instead, I got up, had breakfast, then said Morning Prayer. After that I went sightseeing, specifically to places along Hadrian’s Wall.
While I felt a bit undone not to have received communion, I was reassured to find that the local church had a service of Evening Prayer at 6pm. I decided I would go there, not really knowing what I would find. I attend Evening Prayer in Tokyo, but I hadn’t attended a Church of England Evening Prayer in a very long time.
The church was quite large, and a 10-minute walk from the hotel, actually on the edge of the village of Wark. As I arrived, the organist was just arriving too, and gave me a lovely welcome. Once inside the church, she made sure I had the books I needed and also introduced me briefly to the church warden.
I sat down and realised I had a words-only version of Hymns Ancient and Modern, and the tiny black book of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Eek. Not my favourite thing. I found the section for Evening Prayer and when the priest walked past and stopped to say hello I checked I was on the right page.
Now, the interesting thing to me was, I was given a lovely welcome, but no help at all navigating the books and the service. That was all right, because I have attended other services enough that I know what I’m doing most of the time, but they didn’t know that.
The service was lovely, I found it more moving than I had expected, since I am not a fan of the 1662 prayer book, and wonder why people want to use the vernacular from half a millennium ago, but this evening it worked for me. Everything was done in a very simple and low-key way, and it was a beautiful way to end the day.
The bans were read for the 3rd time for a local couple, who were in the church to hear them read. Prayers were said for a recently-departed soul, and there were members of the congregation moved and upset, clearly close to the person mentioned in the prayers. During the intercessions at the end of the service, the priest walked to the centre of the church and knelt in the aisle to pray from among the people.
As I left I was thanked for coming, and I returned the gratitude. I was grateful to have been able to share in their worship. It felt like a very prayerful, intimate community of worshipers, and it was lovely to be welcomed into their midst for an hour. I was moved by their unfussy, gentle use of the 1662 prayer book, for showing me that it could be a wonderful way to worship. I left feeling at peace and glad to know that they are there, worshiping and praying, every week.