Holy Trinity Anglican Church hosted a choral evensong. Courtesy | Col­legian Archives

The full, round har­monies of the “Gloria Patria,” the “Mag­ni­ficat,” and the “Nunc Dimittis,” flew to the oak rafters before falling softly over the bowed heads in the sanc­tuary of Holy Trinity Church Sunday. 

A full choir, com­prised of Hillsdale College stu­dents, faculty and com­munity members came together to par­tic­ipate in a Choral Evensong, one of the few Holy Trinity holds each year, to cel­e­brate All Saints Day, and the presence of Bishop Rev. Julian Dobbs. Below the choir balcony, the pews over­flowed with parish members eager to par­tic­ipate in the evening service. 

The service moved through various sung psalms and prayers into two scripture readings, one from Isaiah and one from Rev­e­lation, and con­cluded with a prayer of thanks­giving fol­lowed by an interlude from a Widor Sym­phony, per­formed on the organ to the scene of altar boys extin­guishing the church candles as parish­ioners pro­ceded out of the church. 

More than 100 people squeezed into the small church. The rarity of the service makes it even more attractive to com­munity members, said Rev. Adam Rick, though he lamented that Holy Trinity only has the musical capacity to hold the event a few times a year. 

The Anglican tra­dition of Evensong stems from the 1662 version of the Book of Common Prayer, which lays out the morning and evening prayer service that Anglicans still use today. 

However, the tra­dition of daily morning and evening prayer for Anglicans reaches back even farther to monks in the Middle Ages who used to pray in a chant eight times a day. 

The Book of Common Prayer nar­rowed the service down to two times a day, and sim­plified some of the lan­guage to make it more acces­sible to the common churchgoer. This more acces­sible version also fea­tures two “lessons” from the gospel in each service. The yearlong schedule of scripture reading that accom­panies the morning and evening ser­vices would lead par­tic­i­pants who, in the 16th century, often did not have a Bible at home, through the entirety of the four gospels. 

However, this Sunday’s service was special in that it was sung. 

For senior and Holy Trinity choir member Henry Brink, this was the most important part. 

“I love singing, I love litur­gical music. I love singing litur­gical music,” Brink said. “They say to sing is to pray twice. I love singing as a devo­tional thing.” 

Father Rick explained that com­mitting to the extra time, practice, and actual act of singing the evening prayer bears a certain extra sig­nif­i­cance. 

“First, it is beau­tiful,” Rick said. “But also, the way music forms in our brain is a dif­ferent location than the rest of verbal location. So we remember some­thing longer when we have sung it. It gets the gospel the­ology even deeper into the soul than if you had just heard it.” 

Rick added that the Bible fre­quently por­trays heavenly worship in which saints sing to God. 

“There is some­thing pri­mordial, or almost divine about song and poetry,” Rick said. “By singing here on earth, we are getting a glimpse of the heavenly chorus in heaven.” 

While the choir was mag­nif­icent, Father Rick said that even without the music there is some­thing essential about praying in the evening. The death of day can be sym­bolic of human mor­tality. Reflecting on Christian death at the end of the day while falling asleep pro­vides an oppor­tunity to be mindful of human mor­tality from the per­spective of the gospels. 

Junior Paul Esposito began to attend Holy Trinity his sophomore year, but this was the first Choral Evensong he has attended. 

“The choral part and the spoken part both work together to not only com­mu­nicate that this is a work of art that expresses the beauty of God,” Esposito said, “but it is also an oppor­tunity for the person to par­tic­ipate in the worship and under­stand what is actually being com­mu­ni­cated.”