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Friday June 12 Evening Prayers

Compline, also known as Night Prayer or the Prayers at the End of the Day, is a service of the Divine Office of the Western Christian Church.  Derived from the Latin word completorium, Compline prayerfully acknowledges the completion of the working day and is often said just before retiring for the night.

 As a way for our Shaughnessy Faith Community to gather again and acknowledge the end of another challenging week, either because of social distancing and isolation or because of worrisome work conditions, we invite you to set aside some time this evening. Take a moment to catch your breath. Settle yourself into a comfortable chair, pour a cup of tea, light a candle, and allow yourself to refresh and nourish your soul. Follow the short service below, listen to the music suggestions via the Youtube links (again, ads are unfortunately unavoidable), and give yourself up to quiet meditation and reflection. And even though we are doing this as individuals, we are also doing this as a faith community, connecting ourselves to each other in prayer and intention.

 You are invited to share this service with others.

We ask that anyone using this document, outside of our own SHUC community,

to please acknowledge that this is the work of

Shaughnessy Heights United Church, Vancouver, Canada




Friday, June 12, 2020

Image: St Paul’s Choristers rehearse at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, England. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images) 

Our Prayer

Lord, I would thank you for these things:

Not sunlight only, but sullen rain;

Not only laughter with lifted wings,

But the heavy, muted hands of pain.

Lord, I would thank you for so much:

The toil no less than the well-earned ease;

The glory always beyond our touch

That bows the head and bends the knees.

Lord, I would thank you for eyes to see

Miracles in our everyday earth:

The colors that crowd monotony,

The flame of the humblest flower’s birth.

Lord, I would thank you for gifts without season:

The flash of a thought like a banner unfurled,

The splendor of faith, and the sparkle of reason,

The tolerant mind in a turbulent world!

-Joseph Auslander


 God’s Presence

And then all will live

in harmony with each other and the earth.

And then everywhere

will be called Eden once again.

-Judy Chicago



Praise the Beloved!

Sing a joy-filled song praising

the Blessed One among the people.

Be glad in the Creator, rejoice in Love Divine.


Praise the Holy One with dancing,

with melodies and voice.

For the Beloved dwells within,

journeying with us through all our lives,

leading us in truth and love,

the humble are adorned with honor;

the faithful exult in glory,

singing for joy with thankful hearts!

With truth on our tongues,

with gratitude as our friend,

we are in harmony with the universe,

as we hold hands with all the people.

The chains of oppression are broken,

the fetters of injustice unbound.

The realm of Peace and Love shall reign.

Glory abides with those who are faith-filled.

Praise the Beloved.

All people on earth,

welcome Love’s Companioning Presence

into your hearts.

Psalm 149 from Psalms for Praying: Nan C. Merill



May the work fit the rhythms of your soul,

enabling you to draw from the invisible

new ideas and a vision that will inspire.

To Bless the Space Between Us: John O’Donahue



Musical Reflection

There Will Be Rest: Elaine Hagenberg

There will be rest, and sure stars shining over the roof-tops crowned with snow,

a reign of rest, serene forgetting, the music of stillness holy and low.

I will make this world of my devising, out of a dream in my lonely mind,

I shall find the crystal of peace,

above me stars I shall find.

Text: Sara Teasdale


 A Short Reflection

We are becoming increasingly aware that the forms of our life and art — of our modern civilization generally — have over the last few centuries been characterized by the progressive loss of precisely that sense which gives virtually all other civilizations and cultures of the world their undying luster and significance: the sense of the sacred. In fact, the concept of a completely profane world — of a cosmos wholly desacralized — is a fairly recent invention of the western mind, and only now are we beginning to realize the appalling consequences of trying to order and mould our social, personal and creative life in obedience to its dictates. It is not even too much to say that we are also beginning to realize that unless we can re-instate the sense of the sacred at the heart of all our activities there can be no hope of avoiding the cosmic catastrophe for which we are heading.

The Sacred in Life and Art: Philip Sherrard


Musical Reflection

Sej trud (from Choir Concerto): Alfred Schnittke


Complete this work which I began in hope and with Your name,

so that my singing may become healing,

curing the wounds of body and soul.

If my humble work is finished with Your holy blessing,

may the divine spirit in it join with my meagre inspiration.

Do not extinguish the revelation You have granted,

do not abandon my reason, but, again and again,

receive praise from Your servant. Amen.

Book of Lamentations: Gregory of Narek, Armenian mystic (951-1003)



One breath together – a choral singer’s wish for 2020

Julie MacLellan | Assistant Editor Burnaby Now

January 2, 2020

One moment. One breath.

This is the moment just before the concert begins. Here we stand, shoulder to shoulder, eyes on the director, awaiting the raised arm that will tell us to prepare for the journey ahead. For just an instant time is suspended, and there’s nothing in the world but a single unified expression of hope.

Here we stand to make music together. Here we resolve that all the work we have done leading up to this moment will carry us forward. In this breath we leave behind the mistakes – all the sour notes we have struck in rehearsal, all the entries we have missed, all the moments we’ve lagged behind the beat or missed the crucial accidental that ruined what should have been a perfect chord – and we focus only on this moment.

This is the moment when sixty choral singers of all ages, backgrounds and musical skill levels cease to be individuals and become, instead, one collective voice capable of producing extraordinary music.

Together we stand on the edge of possibility.

Together we breathe. And we sing.

This is the moment I think of at the beginning of every new year. It strikes me as an apt metaphor for human existence, especially now, as we stand on the precipice of a new decade – a decade full of potential turning points for the fate of humanity.

How will we address the climate crisis? How will we stem the rising tide of hate? How will we conquer misogyny, racism, homophobia and all the other isms and phobias that threaten the very foundations of what it means to be a civilized society? How will we bridge the growing divide between disconnected groups of people in an increasingly polarized world? How will we successfully dismantle the systems that have privileged some and oppressed others?  How will we create the world we want our children to grow up in?

It’s too much. It’s too tempting to say “We can’t” and retreat into our own shells, protecting ourselves and our families and our lives in whatever way we can and shutting out the rest of the world.

This is where we need to take a page from choral singing.

Because, yes, it’s too much. It’s all too much. It’s too much in the same way that the folder full of new music every chorister receives at the beginning of a new term is too much. You can’t pick it up on that first night back after winter break and expect that every moment of it will work. You can’t count on anything being concert-ready after those first three hours of rehearsal.

So you break it down. You work on one piece at a time. One page at a time. One bar at a time. One note at a time. You bash those notes and bars and pages over and over and over again, on your own and with your colleagues, until they’re so ingrained in your memory that they become a part of your physical being.

And every week, you come together with your colleagues to make it all just a little bit better than the week before.

Some weeks, you’ll be the leader in your little section of the choir. You’ll be the confident one who made time to practise and who got a handle on that tricky section at the bottom of page seven where all the other altos are struggling. Other days, you’ll struggle. You’ll come to choir underslept and underprepared and realize that today you need to rely on someone else to help you move forward. Someone else will step up. And together you will all figure it out, one note at a time.

Through it all, you’ll keep your eyes on your director and keep the faith; if she believes you are capable of the music she has given you, then you are. You will hold fast to the knowledge that what feels like a mess right now will turn into something beautiful in less time than you could ever believe.

Which isn’t to say it will be a smooth ride along the way.

There will be moments when it all unravels. When those eight disparate parts manage to create discord so jarring that you can’t decide whether to laugh or cry, or when it feels that no one will ever be able to stay on top of the pitch. There will be moments when you think, This is too hard for us. We can’t do this.

And then.

Suddenly those eight notes fighting for their right to exist will resolve into the shimmering perfection of an Eric Whitacre cluster chord. Suddenly those sagging harmonies will lift into the soaring phrases of Morten Lauridsen. Suddenly the delicate, compassionate warmth of a Kim André Arnesen melody will pull at your heart and you’ll realize you are no longer just singing notes but making music.

There will always be more you can do. It can always be better. But you will find those moments of beauty and they will fill your soul and you will resolve anew to work even harder, to pay attention to all the detail and nuance contained in that page of notes and to do every single thing you can as one individual to contribute to the journey of the collective choral whole.

When concert time comes you will stand with conviction, shoulder to shoulder with all the other altos – and all the other singers in all the other sections, and you will train your eyes on the conductor and await that moment when, together, you will take a breath and prepare to sing.

This is my wish for 2020: that as a community, as a city, as a country, indeed as a human race, we can take that breath together right here, right now.

Let us make this our collective moment of possibility. Let us set our eyes on our goals – eradicating hate, building a world of respect and love and peace, nurturing an Earth that we are happy to bequeath to our children and grandchildren – and let us stand, shoulder to shoulder, to greet the new year.

Let us prepare for a journey that may bring us mixed success, knowing that sometimes all our hard work will pay off and other times we’ll remain mired in mistakes and imperfections. Let us prepare for hard work and repetition and the knowing that sometimes it will feel we’re doing the same thing over and over and over again and getting nowhere.

Above all, let us not forget we are not alone. We are surrounded by companions on our journey, and those companions will stand with us as we work to make the life we want to live in the world we want to inhabit.

Just as a choir can call forth extraordinary music from a group of “ordinary” singers, so can the collective efforts of a group of ordinary citizens call forth the kind of change we need in the world.

So find your people. Stand with them on the edge of possibility.

Take a breath together.

And be.


Musical Reflection

Sure on this Shining Night: Morten Lauridsen

Sure on this shining night of starmade shadows round,

kindness must watch for me this side the ground.

The late year lies down the north. All is healed, all is health.

High summer holds the earth. Hearts all whole.

Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder

wand’ring far alone of shadows on the stars.

– James Agee


Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

Psalm 150 NIV



O may I join the choir invisible

Of those immortal dead who live again

In minds made better by their presence; live

In pulses stirred to generosity,

In deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn

For miserable aims that end with self,

In thoughts sublime that pierce the nights like stars,

And with their mild persistence urge man’s search

To vaster issues.


So to live in Heaven;

To make undying music in the world!

-Marian Evans (George Eliot)

Westminster Abbey, London: Rehearsal of the treble choir


What Can We Do?

We sing of new beginnings every day,

each in our time to praise in deeds and dreams

the wonder of life, God’s work in all our ways.

We gather in the scattered, radiant beams.

Moses did not see the promised land

expanding new horizons round the bend;

his task to lead a slave-accustomed band

to march toward freedom, searchers without end.

Can I do my share, each day we ask,

mindful of the past, building for tomorrow.

Not Moses, nor Sarah, nor any borrowed mask;

to be ourselves today, this road we furrow.

Ours not to end the work, nor even start;

ours to give each day a willing heart.

-Norma U. Levitt


A Closing Prayer

This blessing takes

one look at you

and all it can say is



Holy hands.

Holy face.

Holy feet.

Holy everything

in between.


Holy even in pain.

Holy even when weary.

In brokenness, holy.

In shame, holy still.


Holy in delight.

Holy in distress.

Holy when being born.

Holy when we lay it down

at the hour of our death.


So, friend,

open your eyes

(holy eyes).

For one moment

see what this blessing sees,

this blessing that knows

how you have been formed

and knit together

in wonder and

in love.


Welcome this blessing

that folds its hands

in prayer

when it meets you;

receive this blessing

that wants to kneel

in reverence

before you –

you who are

temple, sanctuary,

home for God

in this world.

“Blessing the Body” from Circle of Grace: Jan Richardson


Final Musical Reflection

God Be with You: Arr. Larry Mayfield

God be with you till we meet again.

By his counsels guide uphold you

With his sheep securely fold you

God be with you till we meet again.

When life’ perils thick confound you

Put his arms unfailing round you

God be with you till we meet again.


A concluding message

This is the twelfth and final Evening Prayer Service.

I pray that this series has provided for some thoughtful and restorative personal and collective reflection. I chose the theme of music specifically for this final service – and with a heavy heart. Choral singing remains one of the highest risk activities at this time, and its future remains uncertain. Many of us have found singing in choirs a deep and significant expression of our faith. It has provided for a beautiful and rewarding search of the ineffable, allowing us to grasp – albeit fleetingly – the transcendent our soul so longs for.

This pandemic continues to leave a huge hole in our hearts. It  has created a void in our expression of faith and has disallowed our magical and divine musical ability to be greater than the sum of our parts. I pray that music – and especially choral singing – will once again be able to create the community which has meant and given so much to us.


 A Personal Musical Reflection

Ich bin der Welt abhanden: Gustav Mahler, arr.  Clytus Gottwald

I am lost to the world with which I used to spend so much time.

It has heard nothing from me for so long that it may very well believe that I am dead.

It is of no consequence to me whether it thinks me dead;

I cannot deny it, for I really am dead to the world.

I am dead to the world’s tumult, and I rest in a quiet realm.

I live alone in my heaven, in my love and in my song.

Text: Friedrich Rückert

 During the summers of 1901 and 1902, Gustav Mahler set to music five poems by the German Romantic poet Friedrich Rückert. The third of these, Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen, portrays a world-weary artist who exists in our everyday world, but who actually lives his life in another, more ethereal plane reserved for artists. Mahler, much maligned as composer during his lifetime, identified strongly with the poem, saying that it expressed his very self. In fact, he felt so strongly about this song that he reused much of the music in the famous Adagietto of his Fifth Symphony. Many consider Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen Mahler’s greatest song, one of his most profound and moving works and one of immense personal significance. 80 years after this accompanied solo work was written, Clytus Gottwald transformed it into a sumptuous, equally achingly beautiful a cappella work for 16 voices.

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