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Sunday service at Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's questions

Sunday service at Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's questions

Jun 20th, 2005, 08:35 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2005
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Sunday service at Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's questions

We are arriving on a Sunday this summer and were wondering if it would be an interesting experience to attend a service in one of these cathedrals. How long are the services and what does each entail as I noticed on their website several different services offered? I am not familiar with evensong, etc. Thanks.
Nancy45 is offline  
Jun 20th, 2005, 10:50 PM
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Although I'm not a churchgoer I do try to hit an Evensong service at a great church whenever I travel.

I can't speak for Westminster Abbey, but I was at an Evensong service at St. Paul's in the spring of '02 -- my first. Before the service, they ask all the tourists to leave the Cathedral, then those who will be attending the service can come back in. At that service, the "regulars" in the St. Paul's congregation were seated first, then the rest of us were invited to sit in chairs a bit farther back. That was it as far as expectations went. The music was outstanding and the atmosphere beautiful. Took less than an hour.

We didn't wear anything special - just normal, low-key tourist clothes (No, not T-shirts and fanny packs!). A few folks with more film than brain cells tried to take pictures during the service. The ushers politely put them in their place.

Please note that this visit was just after the Queen Mother died but before her funeral. St. Paul's was closed for a day or two during that time. I don't know whether what we experienced at our Evensong was "normal," but it looked like it was a fairly average service. And that experience seems even more "normal" when compared to the others I've attended in other churches since, so I think I'm giving you a good steer.

I highly recommend taking in an Evensong. It's a beautiful sound in a beautiful place that creates a beautiful feeling, devout or not.

My favorite so far has been at York Minster, by the way. The uhers directed us to sit right up in the choir, directly in front of what I believe was a bishop (tall hat put him up in the hierarchy, anyway). Absolutely gorgeous noise!

Happy travels!
Worktowander is offline  
Jun 20th, 2005, 11:16 PM
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One of the Anglican church's odder characteristics is its profusion of names for services. You'll find a short explanation at www.churchmusic.org.uk/reference/services.php

It's rare for Anglican services to take more than 30-45 minutes, except for the main Eucharist (aka Communion, or in some extrermely high Anglican churches, Mass) on a Sunday. In churches with a strong choral tradition like these two, this service will usually feature an almost full setting of the Mass by a classical composer like Mozart or Palestrina: in churches with a large congregation of committed Anglicans (an extreme rarity in England), there'll be a lot of people taking Communion. With a decent sermon, all this can add up to 75 mins or possibly a tad more.

Incidentally, Evensong makes up, at 1600 British time every Wednesday on BBC Radio 3, the world's longest-running radio programme. It's live on the Web, but each week's programme is available for re-hearing for the whole of the following week.
flanneruk is offline  
Jun 21st, 2005, 03:14 AM
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We attended a regular Sunday service at Westminster with the kids- dressed up a bit- went to a wonderful Sunday lunch at Rules after- it was a highlight- I would do it again.
sbparadis is offline  
Jun 21st, 2005, 03:51 AM
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Wow! Thanks for the quick responses. We arrive on Sunday morning, Sbparadis what time was the service you attended at Westminster Abbey and how long did it last? Also I appreciate the insights on what to wear and info on St. Paul's evensong worktowander and the web site and radio info flanneruk. Thanks so much everyone.
Nancy45 is offline  
Jun 21st, 2005, 03:57 AM
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There are no dress codes in England for worship.

There are occasional dress codes for social events - like royal weddings - that happen in churches.

But if the weather stays like this, I shall certainly be wearing shorts this Sunday, and I won't be the only one.
flanneruk is offline  
Jun 21st, 2005, 12:03 PM
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I have been to morning service (11:00 am) at both St. Paul's and Westminster. I much preferred St. Paul's and have been three different times. At Westminster, the homily was a lecture on Mandela's prison sentence rather than a sermon.

Once at a slightly earlier service at St. Paul's we were blessed to hear the boys' choir sing a cappello. Some of them were as young as five, and it was beautiful.
carolyn is offline  
Jun 21st, 2005, 12:56 PM
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The Evensong service at Westminster Abbey--which I highly recommend--takes around 40 minutes. If you get there early you might be seated up in the choir stalls, which is a wonderful experience.

When we were there last the service begain at 4:00 p.m.
Underhill is offline  
Jun 21st, 2005, 02:51 PM
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If you can spare an hour or so, you might want to attend an Anglican Evensong service at your local Episcopal Cathedral to experience the worship service before your trip. Depending on where you live, even the Rite 1 or Rite 2 service is often completely sung.

The dress at Anglican churches in the UK is similar to that of Episcopal or Roman Catholic services in the US.
bardo1 is offline  
Jun 21st, 2005, 06:18 PM
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We went to the Evensong service at Westminister Abbey about two weeks ago. It was at 5 pm- this was on a Monday. The service was lovely- a choir of maybe twenty little boys sang the service.The ushers told us that sometimes there is a mixed ages choir with adults as well as boys. We sat in the Poets' Corner which was very interesting, but if you get there early, it would be nice to sit in the choir stalls where you would have a better view.

We also went to the Sunday morning service at Canterbury Cathedral. It happened to be the Open Garden day, so we spent the afternoon having tea with lots of homemade cakes, scones, etc. in the six cathedral gardens. Then we went to the 3:15 Evensong service.The whole day was quite an interesting experience for us since we are Episcopalians.

All the services that we attended seemed to be traditional, not especially "high" church. At Canterbury most of the local members did wear suits to the Sunday morning service. However, there were certainly more informally dressed tourists there, too.
Sally is offline  
Jun 21st, 2005, 07:46 PM
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When we went to Evensong at St. Paul's, 15 years ago, the ushers were in white tie and tails. Has this changed? I loved it. The disciples did not dress this way, of course. ;-)
artsfan is offline  
Jun 21st, 2005, 09:21 PM
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Three years ago, they weren't in white tie and tails, but were still spiffily dressed in suits and ties. Very nice gentlemen, too.

Worktowander is offline  
Jun 24th, 2005, 08:17 AM
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we attended the regular 11 AM service. Just walking in past the tombs with all the famous names was cool for the boys. They were not bored in church for the first time ever.
sbparadis is offline  
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