Friday, March 27, 2020

Live Streaming Choral Evensong 4:45 pm PDT Each Day During Lockdown

Are you getting bored with TV shows during the lockdown? Here’s an idea for something you can do instead.

These are difficult times. As I sit at home in what feels at times like a state-enforced secular penitential retreat, I have been thinking about how I can contribute to help the situation, beyond complying with the guidelines for self-distancing. I live in an old convent building in El Cerrito, California, and some of us who live there have committed, as best we can, to offer Choral Evensong from the Book of Common Prayer as it might be sung by those from the Anglican Ordinariate. This will happen every night at around 4:45 pm PDT: see the Facebook page here. If you want materials to sing along, contact me via, and I will give you a link to a folder containing the arrangments, including a full pointed Coverdale Psalter with psalm tones.

This is part of a broader response to this strangest of situations. First, I daily analyze my resentments and fears as I was taught in the Vision for You process, and ask God to forgive my sins, voluntary and involuntary, known and unknown. This removes the sources of all my unhappiness. Then I will be more ready to offer something positive, whatever that may be in response to anything that happens in the world around me. I don’t want to give the devil his chance to use me, which is more likely if I am anxious or prone to despair. As St Paul puts it, “Do not let resentment lead you into sin; the sunset must not find you still angry. Do not give the devil his opportunity.” (Eph. 4, 26, Knox translation)

Second, I try to cultivate gratitude. Every day I write a gratitude list in which I itemize the blessings that God gives me: for example, I woke up today and was able to draw breath, I have food, and a roof over my head. I also thank God for permitting the bad things in my life. Objectively I know that God loves me, and even the Wuhan virus is permitted by Him so that a greater good can come from it. It is not my natural reaction to think like this. My instincts are to focus on myself and to say, “Why is God doing this to me? Why is he doing it to my loved ones?” So every day, perverse though it may seem, I thank God for the Wuhan virus and ask Him to show me the good that will come from this. To these prayers of thanks and praise for blessings known, I add similar prayers for blessings unknown.

Then I try to look for opportunities to be of service to those around me, as best I can. My best is not good, I will freely admit. I am not a cheerful giver by nature, and again, I have had to do work to develop the habit of giving regardless of how I feel, through regular voluntary commitments of time in service. By this, I can move incrementally towards that ideal of one whose nature is to be generous. David, my sponsor when I was received into the Church (30 years ago now), suggested to me that I should always “give until it hurts.” I used to joke that this is easy for me because I’m so selfish, it hurts me just to give someone the time of day.

So here is part of the service that we have committed to fulfill as best we can. Each day we are going to make a “sacrifice of praise” and sing Choral Evensong as a prayer for our community and for all, as part of the mystical body of Christ. We are putting it out live on Facebook at around 4:45 pm, so that anyone who is isolated can pray with us. If anyone wants the basic materials for this, then please feel free to contact me, and I will get them to you via a link to a Google Docs folder. Although we'd be thrilled if it happened, the hope here is not primarily that lots of people listen to us (we are pretty ordinary singers as you'll find out). The thought is that it might encourage some to do this themselves, and do it even better! The very best will inspire many more than we can!

Every person in the world is in relation, in some way, to every other, directly or indirectly. By contributing positively, as best I can, to those relationships that I am aware of, then by the network of personal relationships in the Body of Christ and the whole human race, I am adding by degrees to the good of all.

Note, we are not choristers. We endeavor to pray, not to perform, but I hope we are at a basic level that we can add to the world with our efforts. If like me you work on the maxim that if you think you can do it least as badly, then you might as well do it yourself, then think about this: at the very least, join in with us at home. The music you will hear is part Gregorian chant, part Anglican chant, part Byzantine chant. The style with which we pray is influenced by Byzantine (Greek Catholic) chant - we sing at a clip and wherever possible add a drone. This means at the very least you can ummm or ahhh the ison (drone) with us. Even better still, do it in your own way and then offer that to the world!

Hope to see you in the coming weeks!

If you don’t want to do this and think you can do it at least as badly as we can, then why don’t you offer your own prayer for us, or anything else that helps. What are you doing for the Wuhan virus lockdown?

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