A Commentary On Evensong for Stoke Newington

Here we seek to explain why we have arranged things have we have.  The service is particularly aimed at being welcoming to people who are not churchgoers and for anyone who wants the opportunity to search and explore.  We have tried to use inclusive language and avoid things which are unnecessary stumbling blocks.


We are very open to suggestions concerning the liturgy and, indeed, very much hope that its final pattern will emerge as we live with it together over the coming weeks and months.


The Opening Question

A question responding to a lectionary reason is chosen

Searching and questioning is central to our vision for Evensong but we also want to be rooted in Christian tradition and scripture, hence we are suggesting that the leader(s) look at the lectionary readings for the day and from those draw a question.


here or elsewhere

Singing seems to us important.  We are expecting most singing to be unaccompanied, some hymns work well this way but others are more difficult.  We also want to use simpler songs such as Taize chants and explore other suitable songs


Opening words

We wanted to retain this BCP opening but we are also aware of the problems some people have with the language of Lord and Lordship.  We have therefore changed it to love which has a long history of being used for referring to God and is rooted in scripture “God is love” (1 John 4:16)



These marked thanksgivings are said together with other thanksgivings appropriate to the time and season

Being thankful seems to us a key element of what worship is about and something which modern society needs.  These thanksgivings provide an opportunity for a general thanksgiving that is open and fairly non religious.  It focuses on the three elements which, for us, provide our context: park, street and church.  Park is used as a symbol of nature, the street as a symbol of human activity and the church as a symbol of the divine and Christian tradition.


The three set thanksgivings are based on the ee cummings poem “i thank You God” which has been used in the past two advent booklets


Period of Reflection

We also see quiet reflection as being an important part of contemporary worship.  Providing a space for people to stop and think.  We also think this has an element of confession


Lighting Candles with intercessions

Coming out of the quiet we provide an opportunity for people to share those things that are on their heart and for which they want to pray.  The continuing light of the candle is a symbol for us holding these things throughout the service


The active element could be reproduced in other ways but we felt it was important to do something which was not only about words



a version of the Magnificat or other celebration is said or sung

Having acknowledged our concerns and some of the problems of the world we turn to God in praise and celebration through Mary’s radical words.  There are many options for using the Magnificat in both spoken and sung versions and we hope to explore these.



A passage from the lectionary is read.  Another reading from the lectionary or elsewhere may also be used


The lectionary readings will symbolise us being a community gathered around scripture but we are also aware that scripture is not easy for everyone. We rather liked this very honest quote from Richard Burge who describes himself as a very proud member of the church of England “I don’t like most of the Bible.  It’s not a good read.  I find the Old Testament quite difficult, and am often confused by the Gospels and the New Testament.  There are things are really strike me – Micah [What does god ask of us but that we do justice…], and Matthews description of Christ on the cross.” We want to explore how scripture can be a resource for our lives.


We are suggesting that a second reading is used which may be from the lectionary but could also be from another part of the Bible, or indeed not from the Bible at all.  This might well give a different perspective on the question for the service


Response to the passage and question.

See handbook for suggestions and ideas


This could be very simple but also provides the opportunity for creativity and the exploration of more alternative approaches.


We aren’t seeking to answer the questions but to provide a space for searching and letting answers emerge as they are needed


A version of the Nunc Dimittis or other appropriate piece is said or sung

Having engaged with the question we have sought to provide words which speak of letting go into God. Again many versions are available, we hope that over time the most appropriate versions will emerge. 


here or elsewhere


Final Prayers

such as these can be said

These prayers seem to us to provide a simple and suitable ending to the service but other options may emerge, perhaps things which are less word based?


An evening prayer can be said such as this based on the words of Anna Barbauld




We will try and provide coffee etc after the service and maybe once a month an opportunity for discussion.

An Evensong for Stoke Newington - text


The Opening Question

A question responding to a lectionary reason is chosen

As this week draws to a close we gather here to be still, to reflect and to listen to the secret stirrings of our hearts


Tonight’s question is: What is burning in our hearts?



here or elsewhere

Bless the Lord my soul

And bless God’s holy name

Bless the Lord my soul

Who leads me into life


Opening words

Let us stand

O Love open thou our lips

And our mouth shall show forth praise

Oh God makes speed to save us

O Love make haste to help us



These marked thanksgivings are said together with other thanksgivings appropriate to the time and season

*For the park and green and growing things, for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes!, we thank you…  we thank you

For spring, new life, new hope and the renewal of the world…

For a new start, a new beginning, the renewal of an ancient way…


*For the street, for the city and its searching people, for everything which is question, which is struggle, which is how?…

*For the streets of […]  and for all the people who live, work and visit there …

For all who strive for justice and for peace, in politics, in communities, in our complex world…


*For this ancient church and its living witness, for everything which is faith, which is hope, which is love…

For this Eastertide and for Jesus, whom death could not restrain…

For your life which burns yet in this church and in our hearts…


Period of Reflection

In the silence let us sit and reflect quietly on:

our joys and failings

our hopes and fears

Returning to our heart’s desire in the midst of life’s forgetfullness




We continue in the knowledge of God’s love and forgiveness


Lighting Candles with intercessions

So now let us offer to God all those things

which worry and concern us

which surprise and enliven us

… or which simply touch our hearts


We invite you to light a candle and either silently or out loud name that which you wish to bring to God


Silence or prayers


We lift our prayers to you, knowing that you will receive them in love


Now that we have come to the setting of the sun and see the evening light, let our prayers rise up before you like a flame, just as the light of Christ dispels the darkness of our hearts.




Let us offer up our concerns, prayers for ourselves, and others, to God. Anyone who wishes may light a candle, praying silently or aloud.


Silence or prayers  


O God we thank you for the light of your presence as you listen to our prayers. AMEN


a version of the Magnificat or other celebration is said or sung

In the timeless words of Mary after she had conceived Jesus we celebrate the God who turns the world upside down

    My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord: my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour   

He has looked with favour: on his lowly servant.

    From this day all generations: will call me blessed

the Almighty has done great things for me: and holy is his name.

    He has mercy on those who fear him:

    from generation to generation.

    He has shown strength with his arm:  and has scattered the proud in their conceit,   

Casting down the mighty from their thrones:    and lifting up the lowly.

   He has filled the hungry with good things:    and sent the rich away empty.

    He has come to the aid of his servant Israel:    to remember his promise of mercy,

    The promise made to our ancestors:

    to Abraham and his children for ever.





    My soul doth magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

    For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his handmaiden.

    For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed.

    For he that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is his Name.

    And his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations.

    He hath shewed strength with his arm : he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

    He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek.

    He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away.

    He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel : as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.


A passage from the lectionary is read.  Another reading from the lectionary or elsewhere may also be used


We join now with the countless souls who, over centuries and across continents have turned to the holy book to seek new truths to guide their living.


Luke 24:13-35 The Walk to Emmaus

“Were not our hearts burning within us when he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”


Response to the passage and question.

See handbook for suggestions and ideas

What makes your heart burn?

African Elegy by Ben Okri

Space for reflection and sharing

When will I ever learn to live in God by Van Morrison


A version of the Nunc Dimittis or other appropriate piece is said or sung

And so with questions burning and with hearts still searching we let go into God’s peace

    Lord, now you let your servant depart in peace : according to your word.

    For my eyes have seen : your salvation,

    which you have prepared : before the face of all people,

    a light to lighten the Gentiles : and the glory of your people Israel.




    Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.

    For mine eyes have seen : thy salvation,

    Which thou hast prepared : before the face of all people;

    To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel.


here or elsewhere

Come down, O love divine,

seek thou this soul of mine,

and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;

O Comforter, draw near,

within my heart appear,

and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.


O let it freely burn,

till earthly passions turn

to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;

and let thy glorious light

shine ever on my sight,

and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.


Let holy charity

mine outward vesture be,

and lowliness become mine inner clothing;

true lowliness of heart,

which takes the humbler part,

and o'er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.


And so the yearning strong,

with which the soul will long,

shall far outpass the power of human telling;

for none can guess its grace,

till Love create a place

wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.


Final Prayers

such as these can be said

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your Kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as in heaven

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins,

as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom,

the power and the glory are yours.

Now and for ever. Amen

Abba, who is in heaven,

show us who you are.

Let it come, your justice;

Let it be done, your will,

on earth as well as in heaven.

Give us today bread that will not run out.

And as we forgive others, forgive us - for what we have done, and what we have failed to do.

Do not let us go in the hard times but liberate us from all that is unjust and oppressive.

You are good.  You are active.  You are beautiful.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.


An evening prayer can be said such as this based on the words of Anna Barbauld


Darkness is spread over the skies, and darkness is upon the ground; every eye is shut, and every hand is still. And now, as the mother moves about the house with her finger on her lips, and stills every little noise, that her infant be not disturbed; as she draws the curtains around its bed, and shuts out the light from its tender eyes; so God draws the curtains of darkness around us; so making all things to be hushed and still, that all God’s children may sleep in peace.

And when the darkness is passed away, and the beams of the morning-sun strike through our eye-lids, let us begin the day with praising God, who has taken care of us through the night.

Let God’s praise be in our hearts, when we lie down

Let God’s praise be on our lips, when we awake.


Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, Oh God; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only son, our savior Jesus Christ.  Amen


The grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore Amen