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What is Compline? Advent Wednesdays at 6:30

November 30, 2022

As a mid-week Advent practice at Grace, why not learn more about Compline?

Wed. Nov. 30 6:30 simple short candlelight spoken service in the choir stalls, St. Andrew’s Day, quiet organ music

Wed. Dec. 7 6:30 Compline for Kids in the choir stalls – all welcome!

Wed. Dec. 14 6:30 simple candlelight service with some simple chanting of “O Come Emmanuel”

(Wed. Dec. 21 7 pm is “Blue Christmas” quiet service with prayer and Taize music)

What is Compline? You can find it in your prayer book on p. 127. The service takes about 20 minutes with music.

Compline is the last of the four services in the Daily Office (BCP, p. 127). It is descended from the night prayers said before bed at the end of the monastic round of daily prayer. It ends with the Nunc Dimittis (Song of Simeon).

Our “Compline for Kids” follows the structure of the Book of Common Prayer, but with kid-friendly songs in place of the psalm, and the children take turns having “jobs” like cantor, reader, play the offertory, and lead “Keep Me” with sign language. We do this on the first Wednesday of the month, and you don’t have to be a kid to come. (Also they make and eat pizza beforehand and do a service project.) But the Compline part is the service.

I first chanted Compline during my many years at the RSCM Kings College Course. We would chant an old-fashioned Sarum (medieval English) version. We sang in the gorgeous acoustic of the apse at St. Stephen’s church, Wilkesbarre PA. Some of my happiest memories of intimate music making are from that service.

During the pandemic the adult choir at Grace actually chanted a few Compline services on zoom, taking turns to unmute and sing each line.

Eventually, I brought this tradition to my adult choir as a Lenten discipline. We leave the choir room for the choir stalls in the chancel, grab candles and chant from 8:45 to 9. A few people would come, but really it was for us.  It really does not take very long, but is beautiful and calming. We would end with an easy motet such as “Remember O Thou Man” (Ravenscroft), “Drop Slow Tears” (Gibbons), or “When Jesus Wept” (Billings). Chanted Compline is the last thing we sang together on March 12, 2020 at 8:45 pm before we stopped singing for a long while.

Elaborate Choral Compline is very popular in some churches, especially with young people. St. Mark’s Seattle is famous for it and you can hear it as a video or podcast and learn more about the service here.

See you at Compline!


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