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Lectionary readings

Evensong – A Second Service

Lectionary readings

Regulars here know that I’m Acting Dean at the Christchurch Transitional Cathedral. It’s my first real, regular encounter with what in the Church of England is called “The Second Service Lectionary”. [I’m totally familiar with the Revised Common Lectionary and it’s parent, the Roman Catholic 3-year series; I understand its rationale, and know where to find resources for reflection, prayers, music, and so forth].

The Church in which I serve (The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia) does not have an agreed Evensong lectionary. So, our Lectionary booklet has chosen to follow the Church of England’s “Second Service Lectionary” for Sunday Evensong. Online (publicly and privately) people helpfully explained that in the Church of England’s Common Worship, the Revised Common Lectionary is used for the main Sunday service (Eucharist or otherwise). If there is a significant “second service” (say in Sunday afternoon or evening – the RCL having been used for more than one morning service) then this “Second Service Lectionary” is intended for that. It always has a Gospel reading, so that it can be used for communion; and it is intended to be accompanied by preaching.

The Church of England’s “Third Service Lectionary” has shorter readings and is intended to be used for an office (and no preaching).

The Second Service Lectionary is a three-year series that complements the RCL. This Sunday, for example, the readings are 1 Sam 21:1-15 and Luke 11:14-28. Neither of these readings are found in RCL! Last week was 1 Sam 18:1-16 & Luke 8:41-56 and so on for the next few weeks through into 2 Sam and continuing through Luke. I haven’t checked them all, but the ones I’ve checked are readings not found in RCL.

In Ordinary Time, the Third Service Lectionary is a one-year series, otherwise it also is a three-year cycle.

Our Church’s lectionary booklet acknowledges that it takes our Sunday Evening Prayer readings and Morning Prayer Readings from England:

The Revised Common Lectionary (Canterbury Press, 1992) (copyright 1992 Consultation on Common Texts) provides the readings for the 3-year RCL series. More recent publications have made adaptations to RCL. These include: The Christian Year: Calendar, Lectionary and Collects (Church House Publishing, 1997) (Copyright: The Central Board of Finance of the Church of England), from which the alternative readings for Sundays and major feast days (shown under Other Readings: Morning and Evening) come. This material is now included in one of the Prayer Books published by the Church of England: Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England (Church House Publishing, 2000).

Lectionary booklet 2023

But, there is no explanation of the Evening being from CofE’s “Second Service” and Morning from the “Third Service”. It is also very difficult to find anything like the resources for NZ’s Evensong/CofE’s Second Service. All I have been able to find is that it is possible to purchase a single-volume Sunday by Sunday: Music for the Second Service. I have not found anyone who actually has a copy, nor does it appear to be available online.

Add to that, my social-media discussions about all this have indicated that many UK cathedrals have gone over to something called the ‘Pillar’ lectionary. I have, so far, been unable to find ‘Pillar’ online, but I gather that rather than picking up the story week by week (as in a TV series), ‘Pillar” provides stand-alone readings for occasional worshippers. It’s a worthwhile discussion: do we pander to – and even encourage – the growing trend of “occasional worshippers”, or do we maintain the tune-in-for-the-next-instalment-next-week approach of, for example, RCL (and our Church Year tradition, etc)?

I would be helped – as would others, I’m sure – to have resources and links, reflections, and comments to advance this discussion. Do add these in the comments section or on the social media associated with this site.

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16 thoughts on “Evensong – A Second Service”

    1. Thanks so much for these links, Peter. I know about the Almanac – other readers here may also find them useful. Blessings.

  1. I am an American Episcopalian. When I lived in England, I assumed I would adopt the local lectionary for my Daily Office prayers. But when I discovered all these various lectionaries I gave up and stuck with the at least clear and steady 1979 PECUSA BCP office lectionary.

    I really don’t like the catering to “occasional worshipers,” and I hope it’s not because I’m personally a consistent worshiper. It seems to me that part of the evangelistic magic of Evensong, *for an occasional worshiper dropping in* is the awareness that you have stepped into a perpetual cycle of psalmody, lessons, etc. If the preacher has a congregation of mostly tourists doing their only Evensong of the year, then preach with reference to what we’ll see in tomorrow’s chapter from Deuteronomy and what we remember from Tuesday’s portion of the same epistle. (Likewise I think parish priests should help make the office normal by incorporating such references.)

    I also really think Anglicans have given up a bit of their very DNA if the “commonest prayer book found in churches and homes” (which ideally might be entitled Book of Common Prayer?) doesn’t contain, within its covers, everything except a Bible you need to pray Morning and Evening Prayer till Jesus comes again. Including a lectionary! I moved to England thinking maybe I’d pick up CWDP to be in sync with the local church. But it turns out the (main?) office lectionary is something you have to buy in pamphlet form each year from a Christian bookshop.

    1. Thanks, T.W. – unless that is how you are normally referred to, please here use what you are normally called. It is part of the culture of this site that reminds us there are real ordinary persons having conversations here. I think what you say is very important, and I hope that people keep mulling this over. Blessings.

  2. Christopher Upton

    You’re right about the stand-alone concept of the “pillar”, but it’s a resource for weekdays rather than Sundays; most CofE cathedrals have daily choral evensong (at least in term time) which attracts tourists and occasional visitors more than people who will be back tomorrow for the next episode. It appears on the CofE website as the Additional Weekday Lectionary.

    1. Thanks, Christopher – I don’t get, then, why it’s called “Pillar”, and why (following the link that I gave in my post) people said it was what was used rather than the 2nd Service Lectionary for Sunday Evensong. Blessings.

  3. Phillip Tovey

    The music book will be from RSCM which sells the books rather puts them online, being a private society not an official part of the CoE. Few churches have multiple services and so all services use RCL independent of what they are (HC, MP, EP, FS). So in our parish there are 5 churches, alongside the rota is the lectionary reading from RCL only. When there are occasionally 2 services not more than twice a month in one church (8am and Evensong), RCL is used (is may use BCP lections for HC – don’t know). So what I am saying is that the two Sunday lectionaries are virtually unused in many parishes. I only use them in my own daily prayer (they are probably used on the app, but I would have to check that). I will try to find out about the pillar lectionary – never used that either.

    1. Thanks, Phillip – I guess, then, that I’m surprised one cannot purchase a kindle version. Blessings.

      1. Phillip Tovey

        I sympathize about Kindle. International postage for books has got very high. There really needs to be electronic versions for all new books – and some that get reprinted!

  4. I was a residentiary canon in an English Cathedral for 5 years. For a couple of years we used the pillar lectionary but then reverted to the standard lectionary readings. As said above it is a weekday lectionary. I am quite strongly against the pillar. I don’t think it does what it intends, in that it is no more intelligible to a one off attendee than any other reading. Each reading is part of a series but vertically through the calendar, so Monday follows Monday etc, hence, so I believe, the term pillar – but this caters for a very small number of people who come on a given day each week. It’s a restricted cycle which to me soon got tedious, and there are some very odd choices which are easier to accept as part of a systematic read through a book than as a deliberate choice (some of the more misogynistic passages particularly come to mind). I also worry about the many occasions when the New Testament reading seems to have been chosen to “correct” the Old.

  5. Phillip Tovey

    There is a book ‘The Christian Year Calendar, Lectionary and Collects’ (CHP, London, 1997) which explains the CoE approach. I found in it a commentary by the Liturgical Commission.

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