When to close a service?

magnilomagnilo Shipmate
edited October 8 in Ecclesiantics
At what point does an Anglican service of public worship - a service of Holy Communion for example - become untenable? At what point - if at all - should the priest and PCC consider closing the service?

Should the PCC set a figure for attendance as part of such considerations? What is the role of the parish priest in a situation where a service is in consistent numerical decline? Is faithfulness to the bitter end the best policy? Or should the priest and the PCC risk causing pain to the faithful remnant? Is there ever a point where the benefits of closing the service could rightly be considered to outweigh the sense of loss that closing the service would inevitably cause?

Are there other options? Has anyone seen such a service revived or renewed in a parish? If so, how? What steps did the PCC take? How long did those steps take? What factors should a PCC consider if it decides that closure is not an option?
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Comments

  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    I worshipped in a place with 2 other"regulars" (one of whom seldom came and the other often did not appear either). But since it was a tourist destination there were often one-time visitors and sometimes even a busload/tour group.
    I learnt a lot from being there (even occasionally as the only one apart from the Officiant ).
    You have to be very extroverted and be able to take responsibilty (practically and in the Service itself) as well as deal with disappointment and feeling let down
    It got too much in the (bitter) end.
  • For a service to be considered untenable, attendance will presumably be down to a handful of people.

    So I would suggest that the minister starts by considering the pastoral needs of that handful. If they can be better/as well/adequately served by another solution, then the minister should surely then go on to discussing with the handful whether that other solution will work for them.

    And having come to some sort of agreement (or if not agreement, then at least understanding) surely that's the time to bring the wardens/PCC/elders/whatever formal governing body is in place into the discussion - essentially to rubberstamp what the people who are affected have agreed.
  • I attend a service with 2 regular plus officiant and server. The reading rota is easy: B (the other regular) reads OT and I read NT with the officiant doing the Gospel. That said, it is rarely now just the four of us. Indeed it is usually double figures with the irregulars and we are growing in weekly attendance, just very few commit to being their week in, week out. One of its big attractions was that it ran without fuss on very few people. Numbers are not the crucial thing, benefit against cost are. A service for a hundred can be too small if the cost incurred in resources and energy leaves the church drained and regretting it.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited October 8
    Galilit wrote: »
    I worshipped in a place with 2 other"regulars" (one of whom seldom came and the other often did not appear either). But since it was a tourist destination there were often one-time visitors and sometimes even a busload/tour group.
    I learnt a lot from being there (even occasionally as the only one apart from the Officiant ).
    You have to be very extroverted and be able to take responsibilty (practically and in the Service itself) as well as deal with disappointment and feeling let down
    It got too much in the (bitter) end.
    I'm sorry to hear that the service got too much. I know how this might sound ghoulish, so please forgive me for asking, but was the ending really a bitter one? And if so, what made it bitter? Could the ending have been better dealt with by those in responsiblity? And how do you feel about it in hindsight?

  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited October 8
    Fawkes Cat wrote: »
    So I would suggest that the minister starts by considering the pastoral needs of that handful. If they can be better/as well/adequately served by another solution, then the minister should surely then go on to discussing with the handful whether that other solution will work for them.

    Yes, this is what the priest in charge is doing, I think. He seems to be aware that such a change will likely lead to genuine feelings of loss and possibly hurt among the half dozen or so regulars. These regulars are very rarely in the sanctuary together and their attendance is less than weekly (between fortnightly and monthly), but they are friends outside of the liturgical context. The difficultly, as I see it, is that these faithful few probably would be better served by another solution, but they are somewhat unlikely to see that themselves. What to do?

  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    Jengie Jon wrote: »
    Numbers are not the crucial thing, benefit against cost are.
    I guess it depends on how those costs are measured and calculated. The financial costs of running the service are negligible. The costs in terms of time, energy and logistics are more significant. The second Sunday congregation would probably benefit from not having to wait for the service to end in order to access the church building, for example. The priest in charge would probably do a better job of leading the second service if there was more time to prepare and so on.

    On the other hand, the emotional cost of losing the service would be significant for a few people because it would mark the end of a chapter in the life of the church, the second service being a "family service" which was started about 20 years ago and therefore, from a certain perspective, still a 'new' idea.

  • PoppyPoppy Shipmate
    I have an 8am BCP Holy Communion once a month and we are down to two regulars and the reader who sets up and does one of the readings. I like an early service as it serves as my preparation for the main service but when one of the regulars dies or moves into care the 8am will have to end. I suspect other vicar’s would have stopped it long ago but the two regulars we have are faithful and don’t go to any of our other services.

    In my curacy church we had die hard prayer book society types at the early service and often 25-30 of them hiding in the back pew or behind the many pillars. This made working out how much to consecrate quite hard. They mostly legged it before I could get to the door at the end of the service so I never got to know them but the numbers showed that we were meeting a real need. Maybe I should advertise ‘BCP done well and the vicar understands if you don’t want to speak to anyone.’ That might get the numbers up.
  • By 'costs' I am not talking primarily about financial.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    Jengie Jon wrote: »
    By 'costs' I am not talking primarily about financial.

    No, I thought not. The type of costs you're talking about are hard to quantify aren't they? Maybe that's why it's so hard to address such issues in the life of a faith community; the costs are so subjective that it ends up being a real emotional minefield.

  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    Poppy wrote: »
    I have an 8am BCP Holy Communion once a month and we are down to two regulars and the reader who sets up and does one of the readings. I like an early service as it serves as my preparation for the main service but when one of the regulars dies or moves into care the 8am will have to end. I suspect other vicar’s would have stopped it long ago but the two regulars we have are faithful and don’t go to any of our other services.

    Yes, this is one of the options we're considering, although it runs a bit contrary to recent episcopal ad clerums instructing us to "re-imagine inherited models of church" in order to "reach the missing generations" and whatnot.

    What's the turn-around time between your morning services?

  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    magnilo wrote:
    And how do you feel about it in hindsight?

    Glad to be completely out of it and to have come to an equilibrium about the whole time. So I remember all the fun and frolics but am not eaten up about the finale. Like quite a few other things in life, really...

  • JapesJapes Shipmate
    When our monthly Evensong got to just being me (the organist) and the vicar, after several attempts to cater for those who said they wanted it, but who rarely attended, it was time to stop.

    We had an experimental early said Communion on Sundays with a non-Eucharistic "All-Age" service which lasted for a couple of years, but which stopped when the PCC decided All Age should be Eucharistic. Again, no-one, other than me and the vicar, were attending the early service after the sudden and unexpected deaths in quick succession of two other people who did attend regularly and the moving away from the area of the third who was then unable to attend either the Evensong or the early Communion due to lack of buses at those times on a Sunday.

    I miss both services for different reasons and would support their return if it were feasible in the future, but now is not the time for either service in the life of my parish and we are better putting our energies into the main morning service, the one other regular mid-week communion service. Plus Messy Church.
  • AlbertusAlbertus Shipmate
    edited October 8
    Poppy wrote: »
    Maybe I should advertise ‘BCP done well and the vicar understands if you don’t want to speak to anyone.’ That might get the numbers up.

    I imagine it might, actually, if you advertised it widely/ cannily enough.
    It might even turn out to be part of a strategy to meet the imperative described by magnilo to "re-imagine inherited models of church" in order to "reach the missing generations".
  • Fawkes CatFawkes Cat Shipmate
    edited October 9
    A couple of points strike me from this thread:

    - that in a number of places, abandoning a service only happens when (entirely literally) no one is going to it who doesn't have to be there: services keep going for a congregation of one, but not for a congregation of zero. This at least makes consulting with the congregation easier, and my next point below superfluous:
    - there seem to be particular things that congregants value about service: I think we've variously mentioned timing, company and language, and location is probably among a number of factors that could be added. So should consultation try to find what the congregation really value - and see if there is any way to take those features forward, but in a more practical and sustainable way? I.e. could the jolly 10am family Eucharist congregation cope with BCP communion once a month if the 8am BCP communion was dropped?
  • PoppyPoppy Shipmate
    There is gap of 90 mins so 8.30am early and 10am main or 8am early and 9.30am main. I’ve done both and as long as you crack on and only deliver a short homily it is very doable. If the congregation take a long time to find their glasses, pick up their sticks and shuffle to the rail it can eat into the time but my earlies are usually an organised bunch who are back home in under an hour tucking into tea and toast.

    I will be sorry to see the service go as I do love the challenge of the 5 min homily and Cramner’s words have a great rhythm. I suspect my gender has something to do with the lack of people coming in for BCP. Cramner’s prose works well whether you are soprano or deep bass but I’m in quite a conservative Diocese and that may have an impact. We are revamping our publicity so I hope I’m proved wrong.
  • We found that the congregation for the 8am early BCP service were often people with non-believing spouses, who could only make time for the 8am BCP and then spend the day with the family. They couldn't attend the main service as the family objected, so for marital harmony they needed that service.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    Albertus wrote: »
    Poppy wrote: »
    Maybe I should advertise ‘BCP done well and the vicar understands if you don’t want to speak to anyone.’ That might get the numbers up.

    I imagine it might, actually, if you advertised it widely/ cannily enough.
    It might even turn out to be part of a strategy to meet the imperative described by magnilo to "re-imagine inherited models of church" in order to "reach the missing generations".

    There is certainly some evidence that "BCP done well" is garnering interest among certain millennial constituencies, but for parishes in other social demographic situations (such as my own perhaps) I doubt it would make much headway. However, it may gain some traction among older de-churched people. The problem, I think, is that such people are in themselves a bit of a dying breed, especially in my context where the church has never really been part of the cultural furniture.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    We found that the congregation for the 8am early BCP service were often people with non-believing spouses, who could only make time for the 8am BCP and then spend the day with the family. They couldn't attend the main service as the family objected, so for marital harmony they needed that service.

    Yes. This is the case, at least in part, in my context. One option we're considering is a 3.00pm service of Holy Communion (Common Worship), but it might be worth exploring the addition of an occasional BCP service. But that probably wouldn't better serve those with non-believing spouses. It's a genuine quandary.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    Poppy wrote: »
    There is gap of 90 mins so 8.30am early and 10am main or 8am early and 9.30am main. I’ve done both and as long as you crack on and only deliver a short homily it is very doable. If the congregation take a long time to find their glasses, pick up their sticks and shuffle to the rail it can eat into the time but my earlies are usually an organised bunch who are back home in under an hour tucking into tea and toast.

    I will be sorry to see the service go as I do love the challenge of the 5 min homily and Cramner’s words have a great rhythm. I suspect my gender has something to do with the lack of people coming in for BCP. Cramner’s prose works well whether you are soprano or deep bass but I’m in quite a conservative Diocese and that may have an impact. We are revamping our publicity so I hope I’m proved wrong.

    The current practice here is to preach the same sermon at both morning services (9.00am and 10.30am) but employing slightly different sermon illustrations in order to better contextualise the message, but I'm really not sure it's a very effective strategy. I'm not very keen on the idea of preaching a 5 minute message. It may buy a bit more time for the turnaround between services, but I worry that it might starve the already dwindling congregation of what's been feeding them thus far. I really don't know.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    Fawkes Cat wrote: »
    So should consultation try to find what the congregation really value - and see if there is any way to take those features forward, but in a more practical and sustainable way? I.e. could the jolly 10am family Eucharist congregation cope with BCP communion once a month if the 8am BCP communion was dropped?
    Our 9.00am service isn't BCP, it's Common Worship Order 1, followed by a Service of the Word (with monthly Holy Communion). One suggestion is to "merge" the two services and follow an alternating pattern of CW Order 1 and SoW every other other week. The problem with this, of course, is that Canon requires a weekly service of Holy Communion, which I don't think the 10.30 crowd would find easy to accept.

  • It's sadly true that sometimes a service needs to be terminated, simply because there is no longer a congregation.

    It may also be that shortage of clergy means that an 8am service (say) can no longer be sustained on a weekly basis, and one of our neighbouring parishes now has an early Eucharist only on the first Sunday each month, when the 10am service is non-Eucharistic.

    The parish concerned is in vacancy, and clergy are thin on the ground in our neck of the woods, but at least weekly Eucharistic worship is being maintained.

    A second parish did away with all their 8am services when they went into vacancy, but their new Vicar has re-introduced an 830am Eucharist on Family Service Sunday (once again, the first Sunday - easy for people to remember, I guess!).

    AFAIK, neither church has a large congregation at the monthly early services, but Canon law is being obeyed, and the people given the opportunity for Holy Communion every Sunday.
  • In my old parish we had an 8 AM said Eucharist, and a 10 AM with hymns. The same priest on the rota did both. When the TEC 1979 BCP came out, 8 AM was Rite I, the 10 AM was Rite 2, and there were equal numbers at both. Gradually attendance at the 8 AM waned and in my last years there the service was in the chapel. We would have two or three in the pews. Two women who sat together and always sat behind a pillar, so from the altar they could not be seen, nor could they see. The third, a former Warden, sat in the very first pew but did not make any of the responses. It was very odd indeed. Sermon was a very truncated summary of the one to be preached at 10.

    I found it very peaceful to arrive and set up, quietly greet whoever showed up, and offer Eucharist simply, without fuss, without assistance (I did the readings, lit the candles, etc.). If no one came I sat in silence for a while, and then said private Morning Prayer. Oddly it was a good preparation for the 10 o’clock, which by contrast seemed busy, fussy and tiring.

    Now the early service has been eliminated, and those three parishioners no longer attend. That is indeed a pity. As a priest I found it a sweet obligation to serve their needs, even if the numbers weren’t meeting some predetermined threshold. I do think we might recall that the Son of Man came to serve, not to be served.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited October 10
    BabyWombat wrote: »
    Now the early service has been eliminated, and those three parishioners no longer attend. That is indeed a pity. As a priest I found it a sweet obligation to serve their needs, even if the numbers weren’t meeting some predetermined threshold. I do think we might recall that the Son of Man came to serve, not to be served.
    Jesus certainly came to serve, but that doesn't mean that he made no demands of those he served. And if Jesus is the model of service that we are to follow don't you think we should also remind one another to take those demands seriously?

    Also, I'm really not sure that the simple provision of a BCP Communion service is a particularly Christlike expression of priestly service, just as I'm not convinced that sporadic and solitary attendance at an 8.00am Holy Communion is a particularly biblical model of discipleship.

  • Well, perhaps we each must decide that for ourself. Those three were faithful in their own pattern, there more often than not. The church was faithful to them by offering that opportunity. They heard the word, perhaps something helpful or challenging in the sermon, and were in communion with Christ and with each other. I leave it to God to decide if they were growing in faith or discipleship.

    While any priest's ministry may encompass many things, for me being present for them was important. The hour or so I made available was only an hour in a week of many acts of priestly service. I could not turn my back on them by saying that hour might have been used for "more important" reasons since for me, nothing was more important that being present for them.
  • Daron MedwayDaron Medway Castaway
    edited October 10
    BabyWombat wrote: »
    Well, perhaps we each must decide that for ourself.

    I guess one could just decide that for oneself, but there’s also the option of allowing the word the inform our decisions, as I’m sure you’d agree.
    They heard the word, perhaps something helpful or challenging in the sermon, and were in communion with Christ and with each other. I leave it to God to decide if they were growing in faith or discipleship.
    Fair enough, but I wouldn’t be comfortable with that level of insouciance regarding the spiritual welfare and maturity of Christ’s flock, or myself for that matter.
    While any priest's ministry may encompass many things, for me being present for them was important. The hour or so I made available was only an hour in a week of many acts of priestly service. I could not turn my back on them by saying that hour might have been used for "more important" reasons since for me, nothing was more important that being present for them.
    This is very a laudable sentiment, but I don’t think it’s intrinsically a more Christlike form of service than, say, seeking the lost.
  • Other people who attended the 8am, not all consistently, were:
    • families going to church before other commitments, so some of the football mums or dads,
    • people who would be out of most of the later service working with the young people, in Sunday School or the creche, who wanted to attend a service on Sunday that they could focus on,
    • someone who had been in the choir previously but had lost her voice through illness, and found that the sung services were too painful currently.
    • an airline pilot who could attend the service on his way to some shifts, but not the later service
  • Good points above from Daron Medway and Magnilo. (sorry, haven’t managed how to copy in quotes)

    Discipleship is indeed important. But I should note that the three attending early service were not exactly slackers. One, in her late 70’s, was very involved in the parish’s weekly, free evening meal for any in the community who wished to come. She also ran the parish thrift shop, the proceeds of which supported grocery store gift cards for giving to those having difficulty making ends meet, and provided special holiday grocery gift cards as well. Her companion in hiding behind the pillar was 96, and daily bathed, cleaned house and cooked meals for a neighbor who was 100. The former warden who made no responses daily cared for his disabled grandson so the boy’s mother could go to work and not bear the expense of carers. Might they have attended the sung service later in the day? I suppose so. But clearly they have not done so now that the early service is gone.

    And I will admit that in retirement on those Sundays I am not filling in somewhere, I prefer to attend a simple, said early service myself, to fulfill my obligation, to have quiet, reflective prayer without the high energy of sung service with Sunday School going out and coming in, and a crowded parking lot to maneuver out of.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited October 11
    I really think that, if they go to no other service (for all or any of the above-mentioned reasons), the Faithful Few still need to be catered for, if at all possible.

    Full marks to BabyWombat and other priests who see this as an important part of their ministry as servants.
    :wink:

    The two parishes I mentioned earlier cancelled or curtailed their Early Services mainly AIUI because of the sheer difficulty of getting able and willing clergy, but I now see that one of them runs an 8am service of lay-led 'Morning Prayer' on the third Sunday each month, though I can't say how many avail themselves of this provision. The main service on that day is the customary 10am Parish Communion....
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited October 13
    One issue that hasn’t been touched on is the relationship between the two services and, perhaps more importantly, the relationships between the two congregations.

    Historically, the current early service (9.00am) was moved from 10.00am in order to make way for a new family service. The previous pattern had been an 8.00am BCP service and a 10.00am ASB Eucharist.

    Over time the “new” family service has become the larger congregation of the two. The 9.00am, comprised primarily of the former 10.30am ASB congregation has dwindled from about 25 regular attenders to an average of 4 or 5 from a list perhaps 8-10 people.

    So my question is this. Is it ever appropriate to close a service in order to focus one’s energies on making another service as accessible as possible for the whole church and newcomers alike? At present the 10.30am service could do with more time to prepare, for the musicians to set up and perhaps a pre-service prayer meeting led by the clergy. Is this a reasonable request for one congregation to make of another? Or should another solution be found?
  • magnilo wrote: »
    One issue that hasn’t been touched on is the relationship between the two services and, perhaps more importantly, the relationships between the two congregations.

    Historically, the current early service (9.00am) was moved from 10.00am in order to make way for a new family service. The previous pattern had been an 8.00am BCP service and a 10.00am ASB Eucharist.

    Over time the “new” family service has become the larger congregation of the two. The 9.00am, comprised primarily of the former 10.30am ASB congregation has dwindled from about 25 regular attenders to an average of 4 or 5 from a list perhaps 8-10 people.

    So my question is this. Is it ever appropriate to close a service in order to focus one’s energies on making another service as accessible as possible for the whole church and newcomers alike? At present the 10.30am service could do with more time to prepare, for the musicians to set up and perhaps a pre-service prayer meeting led by the clergy. Is this a reasonable request for one congregation to make of another? Or should another solution be found?

    Is it *ever*? Almost certainly, yes - there will be times when the needs of the many are more important than the needs of the few.

    Is it *in this case*? On the information that we have, I would suggest that the answer is no. It seems that over the years there has been quite a change of tradition at your church. The early service (if I have understood you properly) is the last vestige of the church's old style of worship. Withdrawing it will mean not just withdrawing a service for the handful who do attend, but withdrawing an opportunity for currently unchurched people who may find the old style an easier gateway to faith than the new style.

    You need to consider opportunities as well as the immediate situation.
  • magnilomagnilo Shipmate
    edited October 13
    Thank you @Fawkes Cat. Your analysis is correct. The church has been slowly moving away from liberal-catholicism towards a more evangelical-charismatic expression of Anglicanism for the last 12-15 years.

    Interestingly, this was at the instigation of the PCC during an interregnum when it specifically called, in its parish profile, for an evangelical minister to take the church in that particular direction.

    The situation - as it now stands - has been inherited by the current minister. So, in some respects, despite the considerable timescales involved, the church is experiencing the logical outcome of decisions made well before the current minister's tenure.

    Of course, this doesn't mean that the minister can abdicate his pastoral responsibility towards the longer-standing congregation, but it should also be acknowledged that the writing has been on the wall for that congregation (barring a miracle) for some considerable time.
  • BroJamesBroJames Shipmate
    It’s always a difficult question. In my situation it doesn’t at present feel like a big deal to go down for an 8.00, though we are now struggling to find a warden to open up, or anyone to assist at the service. The opportunity cost of the service is quite low. It does mean we can’t do say a Sunday prayer breakfast, or some other kind of breakfast-based service - but location and facilities are both not in our favour for that anyway.

    We have two real regulars, and two or three who are once or twice a month, a handful of occasionals, and sometimes visitors.
  • Different, but related: I hear that today the presbytery of Shetland (which is not in a box) agreed to close 18 of their churches, to concentrate on maki go the most of the remaining 11. A courageous decision.
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    Bravo!
    In a nearby village to us there are two churches, one Anglican, one Methodist. Both buildings need considerable sums spending on them to make them safe and then cost effective to run, let alone modernised for the 21st century. Having no virtues at all, the Methodist building would be the logical one to close.
    Each church has about 12 attendees from time to time. Each church has a service on alternate weeks. Some members attend both churches. There is no point at all in keeping both open. If they amalgamated their resources, especially the human ones, they might make a better impact together than separately.
    I am sure this latter could be repeated all over the country.
  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    In the (Roman) Catholic church it is quite usual to celebrate one of the Sunday masses on the previous, Saturday, evening. That allows people with family or other commitments on the Sunday to fulfil their religious obligations as well. There seems to be (in England anyway) only a tiny proportion of Anglican churches that offer this. Any reasons why that might be the case?
  • My guess is that there is more demand from RCs because of the obligation to attend mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. I suspect those Anglican churches that offer it are those that expect a similar discipline of their congregations.
  • Perhaps Anglican Ministers and Priests like to be free on Saturday evenings, especially if they have families. Anyway, would Anticipatory Services fall foul of Canon Law?
  • Puzzler wrote: »
    B
    Each church has about 12 attendees from time to time. Each church has a service on alternate weeks. Some members attend both churches. There is no point at all in keeping both open. If they amalgamated their resources, especially the human ones, they might make a better impact together than separately.
    I am sure this latter could be repeated all over the country.
    Sadly, sentiment and history ("This was my grandmother's chapel ...") usually triumph over logicality.

  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    Perhaps Anglican Ministers and Priests like to be free on Saturday evenings, especially if they have families. Anyway, would Anticipatory Services fall foul of Canon Law?

    I'd have thought that priests with young children would rather be free during the day on Sunday (not that that is usually an option); not usually much happening early Saturday evening and in any case they would be either saying Evening Prayer or writing a sermon at that time. What would canon law have to do with it? It's an additional service, not the main Sunday worship. Liturgically Saturday evening is part of Sunday.
  • Thanks - I thought it might be but wasn't sure!
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    angloid wrote: »
    not usually much happening early Saturday evening and in any case they would be either saying Evening Prayer or writing a sermon at that time.

    :flushed: Blimey ... I've never been that holy in 30+ years of priesting. I'd be having a beer and watching rugby. Or cricket. Or netball. Whatever. :innocent:
  • The other things that might affect running Saturday evening services are that many pretty CofE churches could be running weddings on Saturday, some booked all day, and the church buildings are often booked on Saturday evenings for concerts or other events - as a way of raising funds to keep the buildings upright .
  • I suspect historically the problem is that having a Saturday evening service that counts as a Sunday service should preclude having one on Sunday evening. The reason why a Saturday mass can be part of the Sunday obligation is that the Sabbath is counted from sunset to sunset. This is then transferred to the Sunday within Christianity. That means however that the Sunday evening one is then no longer on a Sunday.
  • You are quite right,JJ. Liturgically in the traditional way ,Sunday began at the first Vespers of Sunday on the Saturday evening. As far as I know it has always been the custom in the Orthodox church to start the Sunday services on Saturday evening. It was a common enough custom in the pre-Reformation Western church also and was continued in many post Reformation Lutheran churches.

    A good number of post Reformation communities started to count the 'Sabbath' from midnight to midnight and this led to the demise of Saturday evening services.

    In the continuing post Reformation Catholic church one has to remember that the continued use of the Latin language in the liturgical services meant that First Vespers was not the big draw which it might have been at one time.

    In the 1950s the continuing Catholic church allowed for the first time Mass to be celebrated in the evening. Since then Saturday evening has been a popular time for the first Sunday eucharists.

    The Church, however, tries not to get too hung up about EXACTLY WHAT TIME is the time to begin the Sunday services. Many people understand that it is between 12 noon on Saturday and midnight on Sunday.

  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    The other things that might affect running Saturday evening services are that many pretty CofE churches could be running weddings on Saturday, some booked all day, and the church buildings are often booked on Saturday evenings for concerts or other events - as a way of raising funds to keep the buildings upright .

    Most weddings take place earlier in the day and if you had a regular service slot at any time they would be booked to avoid it. Anyway I've never had much to do with pretty churches! Some churches I agree might be popular concert venues but in my experience such events are fairly occasional. An early evening mass would be most likely at around 18.00 or so, would not take much more than half an hour, so would be over well before the time of most concerts.

    I don't think the resistance to Saturday vigil masses in the C of E has much to do with such practicalities; it's more to do with the mindset that Sunday is for church as opposed to the more prevailing RC view that the mass is of obligation and therefore it should be accessible to as many people as possible. There is no need to see 'obligation' in legalistic terms to accept the importance of regular eucharistic worship, which sadly is treated more casually in today's C of E.

    Response to Zappa: your holy devotion to your favourite sports teams outshines mine by far! But even more impressive is your ability to organise life so that your sermon is written well before the Saturday night deadline.
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    And live in a place where nothing happens on Saturday night to render your sermon irrelevant or unusable because of a Major News Event
  • Or where there is a major sports or entertainment venue close by (a problem on Sundays for some, of course).
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    In the days when weekly confession was the norm, there were very practical purposes in Saturday evening services. One trip combined both confession and then Mass for a start. Then by going straight from confession (via penitence of course) to Mass, there was a good chance that you'd still be in a state of grace. Then Saturday evenings could be enjoyed to the full.
  • angloid wrote: »
    Perhaps Anglican Ministers and Priests like to be free on Saturday evenings, especially if they have families. Anyway, would Anticipatory Services fall foul of Canon Law?

    I'd have thought that priests with young children would rather be free during the day on Sunday (not that that is usually an option); not usually much happening early Saturday evening and in any case they would be either saying Evening Prayer or writing a sermon at that time. What would canon law have to do with it? It's an additional service, not the main Sunday worship. Liturgically Saturday evening is part of Sunday.

    Writing a sermon on Saturday night? What have you been doing all week?

    No wonder that there are always complaints about the quality of preaching (mind you, early preparation doesn't solve that but last minute might just exacerbate it).
  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    Me? I'm retired. But sermon preparation is much more than sermon writing; pastoral care, and reflection on personal, parochial and political events of the week, form a large part of it, along with conscious and unconscious meditation on the texts. Sitting down to put it into words, whether that is done Saturday night for those of us who need the impetus of a deadline, or earlier, is important but only the tip of the iceberg.
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