My Favorite Churches

Here starts a series of photographs of churches that mean a lot to me for one reason or another. The idea was prompted by Fra Lew’s photographs of Blackfriars below.

When I first went to Oxford I started to attend Choral Evensong every Saturday night. The three main medieval colleges to maintain great choirs were New College–pictured here;  Christ Church (famous from Brideshead Revisited as Sebastian’s college) and C.S.Lewis’ college, Magdalen (pronounced ‘maudlin’).
For those who are unaware of this great Anglican tradition, Evensong is the evening service Cranmer constructed by cobbling together elements of Vespers and Compline. After the psalms there is an Old Testament reading followed by the Magnificat and after the New Testament reading is the Nunc Dimittis.
Psalms and canticles are all sung by the choir, and there is usually a choral anthem as well as decent organ music as prelude and postlude. The great Anglican choirs are traditionally all male voices. (this dates back to monastic times) Boys singing the soprano (treble) lines. Men take the alto, tenor and bass lines.
These male voice choirs used to be maintained not only in the cathedrals and collegiate churches, but also in many large parish churches. Many of them are now dying out due to lack of support, lack of funding, political correctness, desire for ‘relevant’ church music etc. However, you can still hear the glorious Anglican choral tradition at the great colleges of Cambridge and Oxford as well as in most of the Anglican cathedrals.
This tradition is one of the great contributions to Christendom that Anglicanism has made and Catholics would do well to learn from it.
Lest my more un-ecumenical readers protest that it is ‘Protestant’ or ‘we had all that stuff first anyway.’ Yes, yes, yes, I know all that, but in our attempts to reform the reform, we can learn much from the Anglican tradition–not only in some of the better music they have produced over the last 500 years, but also in how to fund, administer and maintain such a great musical tradition.

  • kkollwitz

    Maudlin: tearful repentance (per Mary Magdalene)Similar to curtsy/courtesy, fancy/fantasy, Bedlam/Bethlehem.What a joy it is to speak English….and the churches are pretty too.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    and…St Etheldreda, called St Audrey, from which we get ‘tawdry’ –cheap and tacky trinkets–stuff which would have been sold at the annual St Audrey fair in medieval Ely (where the shrine of St Etheldreda was housed in the great abbey)

  • LL

    Fr Dwight, Thanks for mentioning Blackfriars on your blog and for the link to Godzdogz.I love Evensong, but have yet to make it to New College as the time coincides with Conventual Mass at Blackfriars. However, as a novice in Cambridge, the experience of Evensong while seated in the 16th-century stalls at King’s College was sublime.You may be interested in the photos on my Flickr site of Oxbridge chapels:‘ Lawrence Lew, O.P.

  • IrvingD

    Evensong as offered at St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in New York City is truly one of the most inspiring acts of worship that I try to attend as often as possible. They have a residential boys’ choir school and their music director, John Scott, was formerly at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. The church is an Anglo-Catholic parish of the Episcopal Church USA.

  • Theocoid

    My father has been a patron of the choir school at Lichfield for some time. He loves the tradition so much, he started up a chancel choir here in Boise (of all places). We sing vespers or compline (depending on the time of year) on Wednesday of every other week (with yours truly as the precentor).

  • kentuckyliz

    How it’s funded? Uh, it’s a government church and they taxed the entire populace with the tithe. Whether you were C of E or not. In fact, for centuries, if you were Catholic, you also paid “Catholic rent” on top of it. Sort of like the additional taxes Muslims charge non-Muslims in certain Muslim countries. Forget the Arab word for it.So just think how much money the C of E was rolling in, by charging the entire population 10% of its earnings. And how cowed they were by the government who held those purse strings. A very tame dog indeed.This practice ended in the late 20th century but some European countries still charge a tithe tax to its subjects to support the national church.A very strange concept to Americans!