Costly Grace: What is Evensong?
"Evensong in Coventry Cathedral is a very tiny fragment of something else: it is a fragment of the worship which is offered to God by christian people, every hour of the twenty-four, in every part of the world. When you come to Evensong here, it is as if you were dropping in on a conversation already in progress-a conversation between God and men which began long before you were born, and will go on long after you are dead. So do not be surprised, or disturbed, if there are some things in the conversation which you do not at once understand.
"Evensong is drawn almost entirely from the Bible. Its primary purpose is to proclaim the wonderful works of God in history and in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Its secondary purpose is to evoke from the worshipper a response of praise, penitence, prayer, and obedience.
"The English of the Bible is the language that was written and spoken by our ancestors four hundred years ago, when the Bible was first translated into English from the original Greek or Hebrew; it therefore sounds old-fashioned. But its meaning is not out of date.
"The service is in three parts.
"The first part (which is quite brief) prepares the worshipper for the story which is to follow.
"The second part is the narrative of God's redeeming work, beginning in the Old Testament (the Psalms and the First Lesson), proceeding to the New Testament (Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis and the Second Lesson), and reaching its climax in the Affirmation of Faith (the Creed.)
"The third part is man's response to God who has revealed himself in history, in Jesus Christ, and in the Church.
"Worship without music does but easily soar; and wherever the Church has been concerned to make worship really expressive of truth, music has been used: simple music for the untrained worshipper, more elaborate music for a trained choir. The music of a cathedral choir is the counterpart of the architecture and the stained glass of the building: it is a finely wrought music, in which the musicians offer on behalf of the people what the people would wish to do themselves, if they had the ability."
For those who don't know, Coventry Cathedral was destroyed with much of that city by the Nazi blitz in 1940. From that great evil, the Cathedral rebuilt with a special vocation for reconciliation and peacemaking.