Easter 2024

28 September 2016
Evensong - toddler

I have been taking my toddler to Evensong.

He's a good sport about it. Mostly.

He's thumbed through a few Books of Common Prayer in his time. (We may have inadvertently crinkled a few pages in a prayer book at your church. If so, please accept our apologies!) He's less interested in the hymnal. Usually he has a soft animal or something of the kind, too. Maybe an emergency vehicle.

The very first Evensong we attended together must have been at St. James's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia. It was a full house that day, and I had to carry him through the gallery in his infant carseat. It was crowded. People made room. I was the weird dad who was bringing his baby to Evensong. He could only have been three months old, tops.

He had heard me sing before. Heck, I did it the day he was born. But that was the first time he heard me sing in a room full of other people singing.

His whole face lit up.

I could read the joyful relief on his face. It was like, "hey, dad's not crazy! He's just doing this thing that other people do!"

“There's probably not any childcare because, I mean, come on, who brings a baby to Evensong?”

It was a pretty great first outing.

Other services were not so glamorous, or well-attended. And often on these occasions he was more unruly. He was noticeably unimpressed with my singing and would sometimes sabotage my efforts to manage a hymnal.

But that's okay with me, though. It's easy just to sit in the back, close to the door. Sometimes we need to wander out into the narthex or portico during the Nunc dimittis. It's alright. The ushers understand, and sometimes they'll even grab the door for us. (After a short break we have always been able to sneak back in.)

I mean it's not like Sunday morning where someone is going to very helpfully let you know about the nursery (sometimes with transparent motives). It's Evensong. There's probably not any childcare because, I mean, come on, who brings a baby to Evensong?

As it turns out, we've actually been doing this fairly regularly for a couple years at this point.

So I was pretty excited when I asked him if he wanted to go to Evensong this past weekend, and he said the word back to me in response:

"Evensong!" He likes the word. He was proud to say it. He knows what it's about.

I don't know about you, but it's pretty easy to get to Evensong where we live. Here in St. Louis if it's the first or third Sunday of the month we can head over to the Church of St. Michael & St. George. If it's the fourth Sunday of the month we can go the Cathedral downtown. And this has the added excitement of seeing the Gateway Arch through the front windshield now that his carseat faces forward. ("Arch!" I hear from the back, the first time it slides into view.) Other parishes in town have Evensong services on occasion, and we try to take those in too. And, heck, he can even come to my place (but his mom has to sit with him) if it happens to be the second Sunday of the month.

Christ Church Cathedral,
St. Louis, Mo.

And I thought this was all just in good fun until this last time. But something changed for us. It became real.

I should have known something was different when he said "Evensong." He has more and more to say these days, and it was exciting to hear him say this word.

But there we were in the service, and we got to the prayers. And that's when it happened.

This little person next to me started singing the Lord's Prayer. All the words, and with his very best preschool elocution. And a big Amen. And I think even an extra Amen. (Or two!)

Now, mind you, we say the Lord's Prayer at home. Or, more accurately, I say it while he listens. But it's part of the bedtime routine, just like brushing teeth, and you can't really be sure how much of that is sinking in. But we say it at home; we don't sing it. And it never really occurred to me that this little person on the kneeler to my right would remember all these words so clearly in a gothic cathedral downtown, recognize what was going on, and spontaneously join in on a monotone with the rest of the congregation.

“God's very being draws praise from our lips”

There's a phrase I use a lot, and I am quite sure that I stole it from someone, but I can't remember who. And Google is no help here at all. So maybe I made it up, but I don't think so.

And that phrase is this: "God's very being draws praise from our lips".

I really believe that.

After all, what is it that causes people everywhere, from the countryside to the big city, to get up early in the morning, gather again in the afternoon, and even late in the evening in some places to sing praise to God?

If the morning church service still bears the cultural residue of institutionalized/secular religion – a service of "duty" if you will – Evensong has long enjoyed freedom from this – a service of "delight".

At Evensong there is no Baptism or Communion. In most places there's no sermon either. The liturgy and the music are the order of the day. They stand alone, without "ulterior motive". They are their own sacrament, in a way.

This is an incredible place – physical, temporal, spiritual – in which to be. Evensong is a real gift to our harried age.

And so I hope that if you see us or your friendly neighborhood toddler mishandling a prayer book at Evensong you will remember that "Christ doth call / one and all", even the tiny and small.

And if you love Evensong maybe you'll be inspired to invite a young (or any-age) person to go with you (there are often snacks afterward). Or maybe you'll simply consider going yourself if you haven't already made a habit of it.

Obviously I don't know if my son will still find Evensong interesting next week, let alone next year. I sort of hope he does as he grows older, but mostly I hope that he finds something like this that he genuinely loves and that feeds his spirit.

Here is what I do know.

I know that I have really valued these times I have spent in worship with him in the late afternoon. For us, the primary reason is one of logistics: since I am a professional church musician, we don't have the opportunity to share the same pew on Sunday mornings very often.

And I know that, yes, God's very being draws praise from our lips, but it certainly helps if someone will teach us some words.

Maybe some music, too.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

The page you're reading is part of

©MMXVII a site for fun and prophet

Organ and church music, esoteric liturgics, and a site that changes color with the liturgical year.


Looking for Carol Spreadsheets?

Hungry? Try the Liturgical Guide to Altoids Consumption

Thirsty? Try the Tibia Liquida

The Eric Harding Thiman Fan Page: The greatest composer you've never even heard of.

Infrequently Asked Questions

picture of a chicken

Questions? Problems? email the sexton.


The author of this website is an organist whom the New York Times calls “repeatedly, insisting that he pay for his subscription”. He likes to read parking meters, music, Indianapolis Monthly, and weather forecasts in Celsius, particularly whilst wearing cassock and surplice. He serves lasagna, overhand, as an example to many, and on ecclesiastical juries. He mixes salads, drinks, and metaphors. He takes photos, lots of dinner mints, and a little bit of time to get to know.




Anglicans Online
Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise
Book of Common Prayer
Brain Pickings
The Daily Office
The Lectionary Page
Sed Angli
Ship of Fools
The Sub-Dean's Stall
Vested Interest - Trinity Church in the City of Boston


Andrew Kotylo - Concert Organist
Anne Timberlake
Bonnie Whiting, percussion
conjectural navel gazing: jesus in lint form
Friday Night Organ Pump
Halbert Gober Organs, Inc.
in time of daffodils
Joby Bell, organist
Musical Perceptions
Musings of a Synesthete
My Life as Style, Condition, Commodity.
Nathan Medley, Countertenor
Notes on Music & Liturgy
The Parker Quartet
Roof Crashers & Hem Grabbers
Steven Rickards
That Which We Have Heard & Known
This Side of Lost
Wayward Sisters
Zachary Wadsworth | composer

Archenemies Aviary



Advent (Medfield MA)
All Saints, Ashmont (Boston MA)
All Saints (Indianapolis IN)
Atonement (Bronx NY)
Broadway UMC (Indianapolis IN)
Cathedral of All Saints (Albany NY)
Christ Church (Bronxville NY)
Christ Church (Madison IN)
Christ Church (New Haven CT)
Christ Church Cathedral (Indianapolis IN)
Christ's Church (Rye NY)
Church of St. Stephen (Hamden CT)
Congregational (Belmont CA)
Coventry Cathedral (UK)
First UMC (Lancaster SC)
Gloria Dei ELCA (Iowa City IA)
Immanuel Lutheran (St Paul MN)
Immanuel Lutheran (Webster NY)
John Knox PCUSA (Houston TX)
St Andrew (Marblehead MA)
St Andrew's, Oregon Hill (Richmond VA)
St Bartholomew the Great, (London, England)
St James's (Lake Delaware NY)
St James's (Richmond VA)
St James Cathedral (Chicago IL)
St Mary's Cathedral (Memphis TN)
St Matthew and St Timothy (NYC)
St Paul's (Cleveland Heights OH)
St Paul's (Indianapolis IN)
St Paul's Cathedral (Buffalo NY)
St Paul's, K Street (Washington DC)
St Peter's (Lakewood OH)
St Peter's ELCA (NYC)
St Stephen's (Richmond VA
St Thomas (New Haven CT)
St Thomas ELCA (Bloomington IN)
Second PCUSA (Indianapolis IN)
Towson Presbyterian Church (MD)
Tremont Temple Baptist (Boston MA)
Trinity (Indianapolis IN)
Trinity on the Green (New Haven CT)


BBC Radio 3 Choral Evensong
New College (Oxford, England)
St John's College (Cambridge, England)
St Thomas (New York NY)


Like the site? Buy the shirt.

Areyou . . .

selling diphthongs?
Yes, but they're not the kind you buy on Wheel of Fortune.

the owner of a bower at Bucklesfordberry?
Full daintily it is dight.

interested in touch lamps?
And fountain pens.

this site used to be better:

March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009
December 2009
January 2010
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
July 2010
August 2010
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011
January 2012
February 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
July 2012
August 2012
September 2012
October 2012
December 2012
January 2013
March 2013
April 2013
May 2013
June 2013
July 2013
August 2013
September 2013
October 2013
November 2013
December 2013
January 2014
February 2014
March 2014
April 2014
May 2014
June 2014
August 2014
September 2014
October 2014
November 2014
December 2014
January 2015
February 2015
April 2015
May 2015
June 2015
July 2015
August 2015
September 2015
October 2015
November 2015
December 2015
January 2016
February 2016
March 2016
April 2016
June 2016
July 2016
August 2016
September 2016
October 2016
November 2016
December 2016
January 2017
February 2017
March 2017
April 2017
May 2017
June 2017
July 2017
August 2017
September 2017
October 2017
November 2017
December 2017
January 2018
February 2018
March 2018
April 2018
May 2018
June 2018
August 2018
September 2018
October 2018
December 2018
February 2019
March 2019
October 2019
December 2019
September 2020
December 2020
January 2021
September 2021
October 2021
December 2021
November 2022
December 2022
March 2023
July 2023
March 2024
April 2024