LONDON (RNS) — The line of locals and tourists stretches about 400 people long, and one might think they are waiting to get into a play, a museum or even for ice cream.Read the rest.
But these people want to go to a church service.
In Britain, where churchgoing is mostly in decline, what has drawn the crowd on a late afternoon in August is evensong, the hymn-heavy evening service of the Anglican church taken from the Book of Common Prayer. This line was headed for the service at the famed Westminster Abbey, sometimes called England’s parish church.
Abbey officials estimate that there can be up to 700 people at evensong when the main choir is singing. Similar crowds can be found across Britain in cathedrals such as York Minster and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, and in Oxford and Cambridge.
But even in much smaller churches, evensong attendance is growing, attracting people who might otherwise never enter a church, and bucking the British trend in declining congregations. Some clergy are hopeful that it may be a way people are drawn into a deeper relationship with the church.
If you would like to hear a Choral Evensong, there are loads of them on YouTube. One of my favorites, featuring the choir of Liverpool Cathedral (and England's largest pipe organ) is here.