Evening Prayer is a liturgy in use in the Anglican Communion (and other churches in the Anglican tradition, such as the Continuing Anglican Movement and the Anglican Use of the Roman Catholic Church) and celebrated in the late afternoon or evening. It is also commonly known as Evensong, especially (but not exclusively) when the office is rendered chorally (that is, when most of the service is sung). It is roughly the equivalent of Vespers in the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran churches, although it was originally formed by combining the monastic offices of Vespers and Compline. Although many churches now take their services from Common Worship or other modern prayer books, if a church has a choir, Choral Evensong from the Book of Common Prayer often remains in use because of the greater musical provision. Evening Prayer, like Morning Prayer (Matins) and in contrast to the Eucharist, may be led by a layperson, and is recited by some devout Anglicans daily in private (clergy in many Anglican jurisdictions are required to do so).
Many moons ago I met Darelyn in gym class. We were in 6th grade. I had just moved to this small town. My grandparents had always lived here…as far back as I could remember anyway. She was about my height and perhaps a little taller. She smiled, she was sweet. We became friends.
Our houses were within walking distance, just on the cusp of being almost too far. But my house was 1/2 block away from my junior high, making it convenient for friends to come over to afterwards. Well, that and I was a latchkey, so no parental units were hovering around. Plus there was usually a plethora of store bought cookies and Coca~Cola. Oreos were my favorite, Darelyn remembers Pecan Sandies.
Her mom and dad were around when we went to her house. He would talk to us and share stories of his time in Panama. I remember one in particular about jungle foot rot. Her mom would sew her the most beautiful formal dresses, things which I could admire from a distance, but being a born and bred tomboy held NO appeal for me.
Through our junior high and high school years we wandered in & out of friendships with others as high schoolers do in small towns, with your peripheral group flowing from many religious and socio-economic backgrounds.
Her family attended the Episcopal church. A beautifully and thoughtfully built church. I think my friend and her family moved to Ponca sometime while she was in grade school, so her whole life has revolved around that community of believers.
After we were both driving, she would come hang out at my grandmothers and even after I moved away to college, she would still go hang out with my grandmother. They got into heated debates about all things social, political and religious. And they enjoyed one another.
She was my only friend from Ponca that came to Daisie’s funeral. It meant the world to me to have someone who new Daisie as well be there. She was familiar, comforting. So many memories flooding forward that day.
Years pass, we see each other a fistful of times or so when she invites me to her parents 50th wedding anniversary. Her mom now quadriplegic. My friend and her father taking care of her mother, his wife.
Lane and I drive the 2 hours on a sunny, Sunday afternoon. Relaxing and enjoying the drive we arrive in Ponca City. The old, familiar smell is gone. The air clear, only steam coming from one of the many stacks near the Conoco refinery. We both marvel at the decline of the industry that was once the underpinning of this town. And I muse on how little I actually know of the town’s history.
We park in the lot behind the church. Walk into a wooden, rounded door. A building, Darelyn reminds me that used to stand across from East Jr. High, which has been moved to adjoin the church. Its open vaulted ceiling beautiful with its exposed beams.
She gives us the tour of her church, through the sanctuary, another beautifully vaulted open and light filled room. The history of the church embedded in stain glass windows. The first from the 18-somethings, outreach to the indians and settlers of that time. This is where we will return for Evensong. Small plaques marking the stations of the cross encapsulating parishioners with the continual knowledge that this is a place of worship, a visual reminder of what God endured for us.
I had never attended an Evensong before. All the scripture reading, hymns, prayers and responses were sung at this particular service. For under half an hour, an organ accompanies a modest choir in the heralding of God’s beauty and holiness.
Unfamiliar with the service, I listen quietly. The acoustics beautiful. The adoration palpable. I praise Him.
The service ends, we walk back through a door into the moved~across~town fellowship hall to wait for Darelyn’s mom and dad. The room fills up as their church members come in from Evensong, while others mill in from other pathways in life.
Family members bring in wonderful cake and food.
Darelyn’s mom has had a lot of pain and is now quadriplegic. She lives at home and helps care for her mom. A hard year for each one of them, no way to gloss over the pain of what they have walked through and continue to walk through.
A friend comes up to her dad and asks jokingly how he’s done it so successfully, this being married for fifty years? His quick return, “Is it a success?” His eyes twinkling.
I remember his and Sandra’s twinkling eyes. And even with the hardship, I still see that same light. To witness this radiating through the pain and loss they have suffered is beautiful.
We enjoyed the fellowship with them, at the close of the celebration my friend walked us to do the door. I thanked her for inviting us. I told her she was a good daughter. I meant it.
And I was struck that her parents marriage has become an Evensong: A song of devotion at the close of the day.
Blessed 50th Anniversary…may this next year be full of His presence and strength for you and your family, Darelyn. May He bring healing for your mom.