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  • Writer's pictureSt Giles Online

A new weeknight service

Starting on 19 October, we will be introducing a 20 minute service of Sung Compline at 6.30pm on Wednesday evenings during term time. The service is for everyone, but will hopefully offer a special an opportunity for worship to our local student population and the thousands who work in offices immediately surrounding the church. The service will be followed by an opportunity for fellowship for students and we’ll be actively inviting those studying in London to join us at St. Giles.

To support the new service, we are forming a "scratch choir". If you are interested in singing, please speak to the Rector.

Sung Compline is a short service: a chance to end the day on a quiet and reflective note, praying in the company of our friends and loved ones, parish intern Edward McMillan explains.

In the Early Church, it was a common practice to pray seven times a day. In the early Middle Ages, the development of the monastic tradition led to a formalisation of the “canonical hours” into a standardised pattern of prayer. That early practice of monks chanting their prayers together, especially the Psalmody, is still used and loved by millions around the world today as the “Daily Offices”. In the Roman tradition, the tradition of seven canonical hours survive: the day begins with Matins, followed by Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, Nones, Vespers, and ends with Compline.

Now, the observant among you will have noticed there are in fact eight services listed here. This unexpected extra service is, in part, due to the unique development of Compline. Whereas the other seven offices served to represent the sevenfold division of the day, Compline, being night prayer, became distinctly associated with monastic communities. In short, it was unusual for lay people to rise to say the midnight office. The service, therefore, was often chanted and sung, and monastic communities developed their own local styles. As a result, we are the inheritors of a rich musical tradition at “the hour of Compline”.

At the Reformation, the introduction of the first Book of Common Prayer (1549) proved a deliberate departure from medieval tradition. The first three offices were combined into Morning Prayer, our “Mattins”, and Vespers and Compline formed the basis of Evensong. The other three were abolished. In wresting the Offices from the chancels, quires and monasteries, the English reformers sought to give the laity the chance to participate fully in the life of prayer within the Church. Morning and Evening Prayer became the normative services of the Church of England: open to all, bursting with scripture. We are proud to maintain this unbroken tradition of daily prayer at St Giles-in-the-Fields. Compline returned to the Church of England in at the turn of the last century, recognising the importance of communal prayer and the end of the day, usually in addition to rather than as a replacement for Evensong. Today the service of Compline is once again a much-loved and well used service in the Church.

It is our hope this will be a step towards build a congregation for a midweek Choral Evensong, perhaps monthly at first. Christ risen from the dead is become the first fruits of them that slept. Join us in making our twilight offering of praise and thanksgiving, assured we need never fear the night!

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