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Attending Evensong at Westminster Abbey

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Milan, Italy
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Attending Evensong at Westminster Abbey

Hello,

when I'm London next month I would like to attend Evensong at Westminster Abbey.

I have already checked the times for days of my visits on their website.

Question is: what is the "procedure" for attending? I.e.: should I be at a specific entrance (separate to the tourists' entrance) some time before the Service is due to begin?

And also: how long should I expect it last?

Any tips/suggestions welcome!

Thanks!

P.S.

I have already visited the Abbey as a tourist (dutifully paying the ticket and all) a few years ago, so the reason for my attendance is not hoping to have a "sneak-peek" of interiors, but really to enjoy a new experience! :)

Illinois
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1. Re: Attending Evensong at Westminster Abbey

When I went for an evensong service I entered through the West Door, which would be the one that you normally exit through, I think. If you are at the visitor entrance, turn right and walk around to the end of the building.

If you want to be seated in the quire, I'd guess you'd need to be there 30 min early at least, although I wasn't the time I went. I've heard they will reserve a place for you in the quire if you tour the Abbey earlier in the day, but there was no mention of that on the tour I went on last summer.

IME, Evensong usually lasts about an hour.

Milan, Italy
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2. Re: Attending Evensong at Westminster Abbey

Thanks btgm, that's very helpful!

Redlands, California
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3. Re: Attending Evensong at Westminster Abbey

Certainly in June they were using the "main" door for entry. One of the vergers (or whatever they are) will step forward to tell you that the Abbey is closed to visitors, and you just smile and say you're there for Evensong and in you go. I think it is worthwhile trying to get a seat in the choir if possible but its still enjoyable if you don't. My experience is that its around 45 minutes--but it varies a bit depending on the music and Scriptural elements.

Leeds, United...
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4. Re: Attending Evensong at Westminster Abbey

The queue for Evensong starts at the West door (the one next to the gift shop) at about 4pm. The service lasts about 45 minutes but a word of warning - the Abbey Choir will be starting their summer vacation imminently (looks like from the 14th July looking at the website) and won't be back until the start of October, so any sung Evensongs will likely be by a visiting choir and not by the choir of the Abbey.

Milan, Italy
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5. Re: Attending Evensong at Westminster Abbey

Thanks for the additional info!

Unfortunately I'll be able to attend only after 15th July, this year, so I probably won't get to see the "resident" choir, but I'm sure it will a memorable experience all the same!

I'm a frequent visitor to London, so I'll have other occasions to hear the Abbey's Choir in the future (or maybe attend also at St. Paul's).

Only thing I'm a bit nervous about is that, not being an Anglican (but an Italian Cathoilc), I'm not sure whether attendees in the ritual are required any specific "actions". E.g.: during a Catholic Mass there are moments when you are supposed to stand up, other when you can sit down or kneel down, you are supposed to cross yourself during blessings, join in prayers, repeat formulas after the priest, etc ...

At an Anglican service I have no clue of what to do! is it ... straightforward?

Of course I'm a polite and respectful person, so I can work out all the basics such as dress appropriately, switch off the mobile, sitting still, etc. :)

London
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6. Re: Attending Evensong at Westminster Abbey

I would just go along with whatever you see happening around you! Behaviour during church services in England is a minefield anyway, as the Church of England is so complex, with specific practices followed by the High Church (Anglo-Catholics) and Low Church (Evangelicals).

In general, stand during the preces and responses, until the words "let us pray", where it is customary to kneel. Stand, too, for the psalm(s), the Magnificat, and the Nunc Dimittis. Stand also for the Apostle's Creed, and traditionally one faces east while it is recited. It is also usual to stand for hymns and for the blessing (the sign of the cross is normally made during the blessing and the absolution). Those of the High Church tradition will traditionally make the sign of the cross at the beginning of the Magnificat and bow during the words "and holy is his Name" and during the words "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost". Some people also bow every time the names of Jesus and Mary are mentioned, and sometimes the name of a saint whose feast is being celebrated, too, as well as bowing during the recollection of the incarnation. Many of these traditions, will, of course, be familiar to anyone from the Catholic Church. You are not, of course, expected to know about all of these traditions, still less to follow them yourself, but you may find it interesting to know why some people will be doing these things and others won't.

Redlands, California
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7. Re: Attending Evensong at Westminster Abbey

There is a handout which tells you what to do at each stage--stand, kneel, whatever. I notice that practically nobody kneels anyway, and you wouldn't be at all unusual or conspicuous if you choose just to sit.

I've been there a few times on a bank holiday when they have the Lay Vicars sing and although its not the same as the boys' choir, its still excellent music.

Milan, Italy
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8. Re: Attending Evensong at Westminster Abbey

Great, thanks!

Illinois
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9. Re: Attending Evensong at Westminster Abbey

I was going to say the same as vnrose. The handout also has the readings on it where the congregation is supposed to speak. IME, most people do not kneel but sit during the kneeling parts. A few do kneel, so it would be up to you. I think the handout actually says sit or kneel for those parts. It's very clear what to do.

Oxfordshire
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10. Re: Attending Evensong at Westminster Abbey

Behave almost exactly as you would for Vespers in a Catholic church.

That is: arrive no more than 2 minutes before it starts, sing along only if your neighbours do and stand, sit or kneel when they do. Knowing that no-one cares if you do things different. The only significant difference (apart from the sex of the celebrants) is that:

- They've got better hymn tunes than us

- In England, when the congregation is supposed to sing, everyone does Even if you don't know the tune. Prod hymn tunes were designed to be easily picked up.