All Souls Choral Evensong at St Mark’s

All Hallows Eve a gathering of the souls of the dead

All Hallows Eve a gathering of the souls of the dead

Father, All-Powerful and Ever-Living God, today we rejoice in the holy men and women of every time and place. May their prayers bring us your forgiveness and love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. — All Hallow’s Eve Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours

St Mark’s has spoken evensong following the Book of Common Prayer, but rarely choral evensong or a service in the evening on a Sunday (in this case late afternoon on a Sunday).

Suffering from bronchitis, I suffered a bad coughing fit from the smoke machine at the beginning of the service.

All Souls is when we mark the passing of the dead, which strictly speaking is on 2 November 2012, leaving me completely confused.

I thought it was the last evening of October when we gather the souls wandering the earth, Halloween being a bastardisation of. I queried this with Father Ian.

Where the confusion arose is All Hallows Eve, which as I thought, is the gathering of souls, and is 31 October, followed by All Saints Day on 1 November, although the church no longer officially recognises All Hallows Eve.

We were asked to write the names of those who had died, place in a basket, then these were placed on the altar by Father Ian.

I wrote out the name of a friend, but then not being sure she was dead and hoping she was not, thought it not a good idea to cast her with the dead.

I screwed up the paper, set light to it, and used it to light a candle for her. To say the least, it attracted a few strange looks.

I explained to Father Ian what I had done and why. He was ok about it. I think he is used to me doing things my own way.

There was a strange irony, I not a regular church go-er, was more familiar with choral evensong, than most of the small congregation (little more than a dozen). A couple of weeks ago I was sat with the choir at Winchester Cathedral, occasionally attend choral evensong at Holy Trinity in Guildford, and last year was at St Paul’s for choral evensong during the occupation of St Paul’s in-the-Camp (which last weekend celebrated its first anniversary).

It was a very cold day. The church, though warmer than outside, was like sitting in a fridge. I checked after the service, no heating. I assumed they could not afford to use it for such a small congregation. I asked Father Ian. It had died.

Father Andrew told a lovely anecdote to a small group of us after the service.

He had to take a funeral of someone in their mid-twenties. The church was packed. A latecomer arrived to find the church full to overflowing. On entering the church exclaimed: Oh Jesus Christ! Father Ian responded: Oh what a lovely greeting on entering my church!

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