Evensong in Münster

lambertikirche-muensterI have just returned home from an Assumption Day Evensong service in St. Lambert’s Church in Münster (Germany). St. Lambert’s was the parish church of Blessed Clemens August Count von Galen (the “Lion of Münster”), later Bishop of Münster, who fearlessly spoke out against Nazism and was created Cardinal after the war, only to die a few days after returning from Rome.

His most famous sermons attacking among other things euthanasia were held as parish priest from the pulpit of St. Lambert’s.

How come Evensong was celebrated in this church? Well, the cantor, Alexander Toepper, is a fan of Anglican church music and has organised an Evensong every few months since Advent 2013. This was the first one I had attended as I was not aware of these services until recently.

The church was specially arranged for the service, the first three pews having been turned to face each other for the choir. A special candle stand had been attached to every pew all the way down the church, the altar candles and several other candles in the sanctuary as well as all twelve apostle candles around the walls of the church had been lit, so that the whole building was bathed in candlelight.

On the chime of 7.30 the sacristy door opened and the procession began: crucifer and acolytes, the cantor in a red cassock and surplice, the choir (nine men and nine women all dressed in black), then the lector and the officiating parish priest dressed in a cope processed down the side aisle and up the central aisle.

Having taken their places, the choir sang the Introit, “Assumpta est Maria” by William Byrd followed by a hymn of the whole congregation – an Assumption hymn sung in German to the tune “LASST UNS ERFREUEN”, which we use in English for “All creatures of our God and King”.

Although the introduction, the psalmody and the prayers were in German, they were all sung to typical Anglican tunes and chants. After the readings there followed the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis from Charles V. Stanford’s Service in A, sung exceptionally well in English.

Following the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer (sung to an Anglican chant), the Intercessions and Collects, the choir sang an intriguing Anthem, “Ave maris stella” by Trond Kverno.

The service concluded with a closing hymn, the blessing and recessional procession accompanied by an organ voluntary.

I was really very impressed by the whole service which was attended by about 150 people. It was Anglican patrimony through and through although much was in the German language. As I said to Mr. Toepper afterwards, this was my heritage and I felt very happy to be there. I shall now try to take part in every Evensong in the future and hope that one day (with the agreement of the bishop and the parish priest) I shall be able to give a brief talk on the Ordinariates during one of these services.

Although this Evensong was not inspired by the Ordinariates, it made me very aware of how our Anglican patrimony can enrich the whole Church.

David Murphy

P.S. Here is a video of Trond Kverno’s Ave maris stella sung by the Brussels Chamber Choir. The standard of singing was equally as good at St. Lambert’s.

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