St. Mary’s Episcopal Church to host series of Choral Evensong services

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The St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Provo will be hosting a series of Choral Evensong services each Sunday of Lent featuring LDS students or graduates of BYU.

Lent is the season of forty days in preparation for Easter. Peter Van Hook, the priest-in-charge at St. Mary’s, said this period of days is a great time to offer these services to the community.

“We want to be a place of sanctuary and beauty,” he said, “and a place that anyone in the community can come for enjoyment and spiritual uplift.”

Many years ago, the Episcopal Church held these type of services.

“There is a rediscovery of the richness and accessibility of the service for those that are seeking sanctuary, hospitality and a deep spirituality,” Van Hook said. “Virtually the entire service text is taken from the Bible (the prayers and homily excepted). Time is sanctified and enriched by these few moments of contemplation and prayer at the end of the first day of the week.”

Beginning in the 16th century, music began to be written for the prayers. The tradition of Evensong comes from centuries of Anglican worship in which twice a day, a service of prayer is offered in each congregation. Evensong is meant to provide a time to enjoy the beauty of the church building and the music filling its space.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church was founded in Provo in 1892, and the current church building was completed in 1907. It is in the style of a traditional English country church, which makes events such as the Evensong series very appropriate for the location.

“Most especially, we hope that musicians and singers will see St. Mary’s as an appropriate venue for recitals and performances of all sorts,” Van Hook said.

“It is an opportunity for any member of the community to discover the beauty of St. Mary’s Church and the resources available here for community use.”

The organist at St. Mary’s Church, Ruth D. Eldredge, has arranged for a twelve-voice choir and special guest singers and instrumentalists, all drawn from the local community. On Sunday, Feb. 24, the service will feature Emily Spencer conducting the choir.

Jen Hansen, a music education major from Morgan Hill, Calif., believes that music enriches her life.

“For me personally, my life would be lacking something without music. I think that everyone should have some level of music in their life. Whether they listen to music or perform music, everyone should have that.”

“I think that this series will greatly benefit the community because although the musicians are active in the LDS Church, it is not hosted by the (LDS) Church. It is important to be exposed to music in different religions or cultures,” she said.

The preacher at Evensong will be the Reverend Canon Mary June Nestler, executive to the bishop of Utah. Nestler has been on the staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah for several years.

The series started on Sunday, Feb. 17, and will end on Palm Sunday, March 24. The services are held at 5:00 p.m. every Sunday in the St. Mary’s Church building on 50 W. 200 South, Provo. For further information, call the church office at 801.373.3090, or check the church’s website.

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