What do you know about Vespers services?

Jan 16, 2022 | 2 comments

Oysterville Church by Bob Duke

Suffering from an attack of Sunday Morning Curiosity, I spent a few minutes today trying to research where Vespers services are regularly held.  First I looked locally and found Oysterville Church listed which we all know is not true.  At least not right now.  For one thing, it’s not summer and that’s the only time Vespers has ever been offered in the once-upon-a-time Baptist Church across the street.  Besides which, for the past two summers, Covid concerns have caused the closure of Vespers in Oysterville.

The only other place I saw listed was at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Their website said:
On Sunday nights we gather for our student-led Vespers service, which draws thousands of young people from across the Twin Cities.
It’s a service that lets you reflect, pray, sing out, and praise God for what He’s done and who He is. And it’s here for anyone who is looking for Sunday night worship.
Each night takes on an atmosphere that’s unique to the worship on stage and the worshipers that have gathered.

Oysterville Church Vestibule

As I searched, I found many other churches listed — every church on the Peninsula, for instance, but none referred specifically to a Vespers service.  I did, however, find this description of Vespers on the Encyclopedia Britannica website:

Vespers, evening prayer of thanksgiving and praise in Roman Catholic and certain other Christian liturgies. Vespers and lauds (morning prayer) are the oldest and most important of the traditional liturgy of the hours. Many scholars believe vespers is based on Judaic forms of prayer and point to a daily evening celebration observed among Jews in the 1st century BCE.

By the 3rd century CE the writings of Tertullian show clear evidence of an evening prayer. During the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries, cathedral choirs and monastic orders developed the vespers service, as it was known for centuries thereafter. Following the Second Vatican Council (1962–65), the Roman Catholic service was translated into the vernacular and simplified, but it continues to revolve around the Magnificat canticle, various psalms and antiphons, and readings that vary according to liturgical season.

The Lutheran and Anglican churches both include an evening prayer service in their liturgies. In the Anglican church, evening prayer traditionally is called evensong and can be found in the 1549Book of Common Prayer.  Both Protestant churches revised their rite for evening prayer during the 1970s, and both rites are patterned closely after the traditional Roman Catholic evening prayer. In the Anglican church the revised prayers offer alternative choices for greater individual choice among congregations.

Inside The Oysterville Church 

An early name for vespers is lucernarium, literally “lamp-lighting time” in Latin referring to the candles lit for this service when it was held in the early evening.

It’s tempting to close out this blog with “Here endeth the first lesson.”  Which might indicate that there will be a second.  Which I doubt.

2 Comments

  1. Jane E Smith

    When I was in college in the 60’s I worked at Camp O-Ongo in Running Springs in the San Bernadino Mtns. in the summer. Our Sunday service was Vespers. It was denominational, light on prayer, teachings included how to be a good and honest person.The service was held outdoors in an amphitheater type place, and as far as I can remember is the only purpose for that amphitheater. Seating was on l0gs. The password question to get on the camp site is still “What were Sunday services called?” Because it was still the 60’s, the Catholic kids were taken by van to church in Lake Arrowhead.

    Reply
    • sydney

      It’s especially interesting to me that your Vespers experience was in the San Bernardino Mtns. My mother and father were both graduates of the University of Redlands (also in the San Bernardino area) in the early 1930s. Attendance was required at Sunday Vespers (and several other services as I recall) at Redlands which was then a Baptist college. It was their Vespers experience which prompted them to begin the Vespers services in the Oysterville Church almost 50 years later.
      Thanks for sharing your story!
      Sydney

      Reply

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