Order of Service
Sunday, 17th September 2023
15:00Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
Welcome to Westminster Abbey. Daily prayer has been offered in this place for over a thousand years, and your participation in today's service is warmly welcomed. At choral Evensong most of the service is sung by the choir on our behalf. We participate through our presence and our listening, that the words and the music might become a prayer within us and lift us to contemplate God's beauty and glory.
The service always includes one or more psalms. These ancient prayers, taken from the Old Testament, reflect the full range of human emotions and experiences; from the depths of anger, resentment, and abandonment to the heights of ecstatic joy and praise. They were used by Jesus, and have always been at the heart of the Church's daily prayer.
The canticles Magnificat (Luke 1: 46–55) and Nunc dimittis (Luke 2: 29–32) reflect two responses to the Incarnation (God becoming fully human in Jesus Christ). Both speak of the fulfilment of God's promises, not just to 'Abraham and his seed', but also 'to be a light to lighten the Gentiles' (all nations). With their themes of fulfilment and completion, these texts have been given central place for many centuries in the Church's prayers for the evening and at the end of the day.
Please join in saying the words and singing the hymns printed in bold type.
The church is served by a hearing loop. Users should turn their hearing aid to the setting marked T.
Photography, filming, and sound recording are not allowed in the Abbey during services. Please ensure that mobile telephones and other electronic devices are silent.
The service is sung by the Choir of Westminster Abbey.
During the final hymn a collection will be taken; the money from today's services will be divided equally between The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields and the work of the Abbey. The Connection works with people who are rough sleeping to move away from, and stay off, the streets of London.
The Noble Army of Martyrs
Above the Abbey's Great West Door stand ten statues to 20th-century Christian martyrs. This autumn, to mark the 25th anniversary of their installation, a sermon series will focus on the lives of those depicted, their ongoing resonance, and legacy for the Church. This evening's sermon, preached by The Venerable Tricia Hillas, will focus on Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Order of Service
The choir sings the Introit
Jesu, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see,
And in thy presence rest.
Words: Bernard of Clairvaux (c 1090–1153), translated by Edward Caswall (1814–78)
Music: Edward Bairstow (1874–1946)
All stand as the choir and clergy enter
The officiant welcomes the congregation
All remain standing as the officiant introduces a general Confession
Dearly beloved brethren, the Scripture moveth us in sundry places to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness; and that we should not dissemble nor cloke them before the face of almighty God our heavenly Father; but confess them with an humble, lowly, penitent, and obedient heart; to the end that we may obtain forgiveness of the same, by his infinite goodness and mercy. And although we ought at all times humbly to acknowledge our sins before God; yet ought we most chiefly so to do, when we assemble and meet together to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy Word, and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul. Wherefore I pray and beseech you, as many as are here present, to accompany me with a pure heart, and humble voice, unto the throne of the heavenly grace, saying after me;
All kneel or sit
Almighty and most merciful Father,
we have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep.
We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against thy holy laws.
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done;
and we have done those things which we ought not to have done;
and there is no health in us.
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.
Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults.
Restore thou them that are penitent;
according to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesu our Lord.
And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake,
that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life,
to the glory of thy holy name.
The officiant gives the Absolution
Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness, and live; and hath given power and commandment to his ministers, to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins: he pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy gospel. Wherefore let us beseech him to grant us true repentance, and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him, which we do at this present; and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure, and holy; so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
All say together the Lord's Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.
All stand. The officiant and choir sing the Responses
and to the Holy Ghost;
world without end. Amen.
Music: William Byrd (c 1540–1623)
All sit. The choir sings Psalm 89: 1–16
My song shall be alway of the loving-kindness of the Lord : with my mouth will I ever be shewing thy truth from one generation to another.
For I have said, Mercy shall be set up for ever : thy truth shalt thou stablish in the heavens.
I have made a covenant with my chosen : I have sworn unto David my servant;
thy seed will I stablish for ever : and set up thy throne from one generation to another.
O Lord, the very heavens shall praise thy wondrous works : and thy truth in the congregation of the saints.
For who is he among the clouds : that shall be compared unto the Lord?
And what is he among the gods : that shall be like unto the Lord?
God is very greatly to be feared in the council of the saints : and to be had in reverence of all them that are round about him.
O Lord God of Hosts, who is like unto thee : thy truth, most mighty Lord, is on every side.
Thou rulest the raging of the sea : thou stillest the waves thereof when they arise.
Thou hast subdued Egypt, and destroyed it : thou hast scattered thine enemies abroad with thy mighty arm.
The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine : thou hast laid the foundation of the round world, and all that therein is.
Thou hast made the north and the south : Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name.
Thou hast a mighty arm : strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.
Righteousness and equity are the habitation of thy seat : mercy and truth shall go before thy face.
Blessed is the people, O Lord, that can rejoice in thee : they shall walk in the light of thy countenance.
and to the Holy Ghost;
world without end. Amen.
Chant: Thomas Attwood Walmisley (1814–56)
All sit for the first Lesson, Ezekiel 20: 1–8, 33–44
In the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, certain elders of Israel came to consult the Lord, and sat down before me. And the word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, speak to the elders of Israel, and say to them: Thus says the Lord God: Why are you coming? To consult me? As I live, says the Lord God, I will not be consulted by you. Will you judge them, mortal, will you judge them? Then let them know the abominations of their ancestors, and say to them: Thus says the Lord God: On the day when I chose Israel, I swore to the offspring of the house of Jacob—making myself known to them in the land of Egypt—I swore to them, saying, I am the Lord your God. On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands. And I said to them, Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God. But they rebelled against me and would not listen to me; not one of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt.
Then I thought I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.
As I live, says the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out, I will be king over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out; and I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgement with you face to face. As I entered into judgement with your ancestors in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgement with you, says the Lord God. I will make you pass under the staff, and will bring you within the bond of the covenant. I will purge out the rebels among you, and those who transgress against me; I will bring them out of the land where they reside as aliens, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.
As for you, O house of Israel, thus says the Lord God: Go, serve your idols, every one of you now and hereafter, if you will not listen to me; but my holy name you shall no more profane with your gifts and your idols.
For on my holy mountain, the mountain height of Israel, says the Lord God, there all the house of Israel, all of them, shall serve me in the land; there I will accept them, and there I will require your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your sacred things. As a pleasing odour I will accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples, and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will manifest my holiness among you in the sight of the nations. You shall know that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the country that I swore to give to your ancestors. There you shall remember your ways and all the deeds by which you have polluted yourselves; and you shall loathe yourselves for all the evils that you have committed. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name's sake, not according to your evil ways or corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, says the Lord God.
Here ends the first lesson.
All stand. The choir sings Magnificat
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour,
and holy is his name.
throughout all generations.
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
and hath exalted the humble and meek;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
hath holpen his servant Israel,
as he promised to our forefathers,
Abraham and his seed, for ever.
and to the Holy Ghost;
world without end. Amen.
Evening Service in G minor, Henry Purcell (1659–95) Organist of Westminster Abbey 1679–95
All sit for the second Lesson, Acts 20: 17–end
From Miletus Paul sent a message to Ephesus, asking the elders of the church to meet him. When they came to him, he said to them:
'You yourselves know how I lived among you the entire time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears, enduring the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message to you and teaching you publicly and from house to house, as I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus. And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God's grace.
'And now I know that none of you, among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom, will ever see my face again. Therefore I declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. I know that after I have gone, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth in order to entice the disciples to follow them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to warn everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified. I coveted no one's silver or gold or clothing. You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions. In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."'
When he had finished speaking, he knelt down with them all and prayed. There was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, grieving especially because of what he had said, that they would not see him again. Then they brought him to the ship.
Here ends the second lesson.
All stand. The choir sings Nunc dimittis
according to thy word;
and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
and to the Holy Ghost;
world without end. Amen.
Evening Service in G minor, Henry Purcell
All face east to say together the Apostles' Creed
I believe in God the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth:
and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell;
the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic Church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.
Let us pray.
All kneel or sit. The officiant and choir sing the Lesser Litany; the Lord's Prayer and the Responses
Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. Amen.
The officiant sings the Collects; of the day, for peace, and for aid against all perils
Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with thy perpetual mercy: and, because the frailty of man without thee cannot but fall, keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels and all just works do proceed: Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that both our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee we being defended from the fear of our enemies may pass our time in rest and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.
Lighten our darkness we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Music: William Byrd
The officiant says the Prayers; for the Royal Family, and for the Members of the Order of the Bath
Almighty God, the fountain of all goodness, we humbly beseech thee to bless our most gracious Sovereign Lord King Charles, Queen Camilla, William Prince of Wales, the Princess of Wales, and all the Royal Family: endue them with thy Holy Spirit; enrich them with thy heavenly grace; prosper them with all happiness; and bring them to thine everlasting kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
God save our Gracious Sovereign, and all the Members of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath living and departed. Amen.
All sit. The choir sings the Anthem
O Lord God of hosts,
how long wilt thou be angry with thy people that prayeth?
Thou feedest them with the bread of tears,
and givest them plenteousness of tears to drink.
Thou hast made us a very strife unto our neighbours;
and our enemies laugh us to scorn.
Turn us again, thou God of hosts;
shew the light of thy countenance, and we shall be whole.
And so will we not go back from thee;
O let us live, and we shall call upon thy name.
Words: Psalm 80: 4–7, 18
Music: Henry Purcell
All kneel or remain seated for the Intercessions, at the end of which all say
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore.
All stand to sing the Hymn
Jerusalem the golden,
with milk and honey blest,
beneath thy contemplation
sink heart and voice opprest.
I know not, O I know not,
what social joys are there,
what radiancy of glory,
what light beyond compare.
They stand, those halls of Sion,
conjubilant with song,
and bright with many an angel,
and all the martyr throng;
the Prince is ever in them,
the daylight is serene,
the pastures of the blessèd
are decked in glorious sheen.
There is the throne of David,
and there, from care released,
the song of them that triumph,
the shout of them that feast;
and they who, with their Leader,
have conquered in the fight,
for ever and for ever
are clad in robes of white.
O sweet and blessèd country,
shall I e'er see thy face?
O sweet and blessèd country,
shall I e'er win thy grace?
Exult, O dust and ashes!
the Lord shall be thy part:
his only, his for ever,
thou shalt be, and thou art!
Words: 'Urbs Sion aurea in Hora novissima' Bernard of Cluny (fl early 12th century) translated by John Mason Neale (1818–66)
Tune: 'Ewing' 381 NEH, Alexander Ewing (1830–95)
The Sermon by The Venerable Tricia Hillas, Canon in Residence
All stand to sing the Hymn during which a collection will be taken. Alternatively, cash and contactless donations may be given as you leave via the Great West Door
The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
the darkness falls at thy behest;
to thee our morning hymns ascended,
thy praise shall sanctify our rest.
We thank thee that thy Church unsleeping,
while earth rolls onward into light,
through all the world her watch is keeping,
and rests not now by day or night.
As o'er each continent and island
the dawn leads on another day,
the voice of prayer is never silent,
nor dies the strain of praise away.
The sun that bids us rest is waking
our brethren 'neath the western sky,
and hour by hour fresh lips are making
thy wondrous doings heard on high.
So be it, Lord; thy throne shall never,
like earth's proud empires, pass away;
thy kingdom stands, and grows for ever,
till all thy creatures own thy sway.
Words: John Ellerton (1826–93)
Tune: 'St Clement' 252i NEH, Clement Scholefield (1839–1904)
The Blessing. All respond Amen.
All remain standing as the clergy depart
Music after the service
Fantasia in A, William Byrd
Those who wish to may sit for the remainder of the organ voluntary
CHORISTERSHIPS AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY
Enquiries are welcomed at any time.
If you have a daughter aged 10 or 11 who would like to sing with the St Margaret's Choristers, please contact the Director of Music at St Margaret's, Greg Morris (email). Further details can be found here.
If you have a son who enjoys singing and you would like further details of the world-renowned Abbey Choir and its unique choir school, please click here.
Mr Mark Mitchell, Acting Headmaster, Westminster Abbey Choir School, Dean's Yard, London, SW1P 3NY, 020 7222 6151 email
Mr Andrew Nethsingha, Organist and Master of the Choristers, The Chapter Office, 20 Dean's Yard, London, SW1P 3PA, 020 7654 4854 email
You can help us to improve our prototype order of service by completing a short online survey. Thank you for your support.
The Abbey is grateful for your support. Cash and contactless donations may be given as you leave via the Great West Door and will be divided equally between the work of the Abbey and the charities it supports.Donations