As Christ Church currently prepares for our next rector, and worship is of very great importance to us in calling a new rector, we wanted to lay out in detail what our worship life includes and looks like now and in the recent past. Christ Church was an early leader of Anglo-Catholic worship in America. The present church was built (1895-1900) to suit the needs of full Catholic worship. It has all the necessary furnishings and a resonant acoustic that, with correct projection, requires no special amplification. Solemn High Mass, Rite I, is celebrated every Sunday at 11:00am, September through May. The Consecration is performed facing the altar. In the Summer, a simpler Rite I High Mass is at 10:00am at the east facing High Altar in June and August and sung by the congregation. In July, the 10:00am Service, which combines the seasonal 9:00am and 11:00am congregations, uses Rite II at the free standing Altar in the nave crossing as per the 9:00am Sunday Eucharist in other seasons.
Solemn High Mass, Sunday at 11:00am
Solemn High Mass is always chanted. The choreography and train of the Service are in the spirit of Fortescue's directions for the Tridentine Mass (Lamburn's "Ritual Notes" serves as a chief reference, as well as more contemporary sources occasionally). Moreover, our local customaries for Solemn Mass, Holy Week, and other liturgical observances of the Catholic tradition are carefully maintained in written form by informed lay persons working under the leadership, direction, and discretion of the rector. A deacon and (lay) subdeacon always assist. Christ Church is known for its use of much incense. The Gospel is carried in procession to the midst of the people to be chanted. The Prayers of the People are taken from the litany or bidding forms in the Prayer Book and they too are made from the worshippers' midst. The creed, absolution, and peace are all led from the rood. The peace is exchanged warmly. The Consecration is accompanied by the peal of sanctus and tower bells, elevated torches, and incense. Children from the church school join the service at the Communion of the People. The Rite I Solemn Mass congregation, largely progressive on social issues, does not value liturgical experimentation or Vatican II updating. Indeed, tradition and the transcendent empower and support the modern, forward-looking Faith many of us hold.
Mass with Hymns, Sunday at 9:00am
A free standing Altar is employed in the nave for this simpler Mass on Sunday mornings at 9:00am, usually concluded in under an hour. The organ is played, and incense and sanctus tower bells are used. Parts of the Ordinary are sung by the people. The Service is designed to be more child-accessible than the 11:00am service, though a good number of children attend the High Mass, as well.
Low Mass at 8:00 a.m.
The Low Mass on Sunday morning, conducted in the Lady Chapel, is offered by a faithful congregation of about 15 to 20 people, this very simple Mass being the primary contact to the parish for some. There is no music. The liturgy is Rite I, like the daily Low Masses. A Sanctus gong is employed. It is formal, yet intimate, and lasts not much more than ½ hour. The homily is preached on the same lessons read at 9:00am and 11:00am.
Compline, Sunday at 9:00pm
The monastic office of Compline is offered in a dark church lit only by dozens of candles throughout the nave and chancel, and pierced by incense from a slow-burning brazier. It is sung only by members of the Choir, hidden from view in the tower loft. Gregorian chant alternates with anthems set to Renaissance polyphony by the great composers of the 16th and 17th Centuries. St. Hilda's House interns and seminarians set up the church, greet worshipers, and provide refreshments and cordial hospitality afterward. This ½ hour service is the principle outreach of the parish to the Yale student body, drawing in scores of undergraduate and graduate students. Others from nearby colleges or the New Haven community attend Compline, of all ages but especially young people in their 20’s. The Service is one of the best attended college-age worship services in the city, and its attendance often rivals or exceeds the Sunday morning High Mass. It is cherished as an experience of profound serenity and reflection by attendees of many Christian backgrounds, other faiths, and even of no professed faith. A candle-lit Mass is celebrated at the conclusion of Compline on Easter, All Saints Sunday, and the Third Sunday in Advent, and that service can have as many as 200 worshipers.
The reverence and spirituality of the solemn Sunday Services are continued in six weekday Low Masses celebrated in the Lady Chapel. During the Interim, due to a shortage of staffing hours, the Low Mass on Saturdays and Mondays has been suspended. It is hoped that these weekday Masses will soon be resumed with a new rector, as Christ Church is the one Episcopal Church in New Haven where any Episcopalian or other Christian needing the Sacrament can be comforted at the Eucharist that very day. Rites I and II are used alternately on weekdays. The Friday Mass is often a gathering point around the Eucharist for the St. Hilda’s House interns, who spend Friday in spiritual reflection on the week’s service work. For many years in the past, the Thursday evening Eucharist was a Healing Mass with Unction, Laying on of Hands, and Prayers for Healing for those seeking it. Also, for many years, the first Saturday morning Mass of the month was offered as a Requiem for all whose years mind was that month. Desire has been expressed in the parish for these to return. The offering of weekday services was a constant wish of the parish's founding benefactress Mary Edwards, and the condition of her bequeathal to the parish. Forty-five percent of survey respondents report they have made occasional use of daily Mass, and another 26%value its existence though they do not attend. Yet attendance at daily Mass has been quite small throughout our history; most of us live far from the church. The fact that the prayers of the parish, Church, city, and world are brought to God's Altar every day and joined to the Great Thanksgiving is more than a symbol to us, it is the lifting up of Christ to all who can come to Him and effectually on behalf of all who cannot.
Again, following the bequeathal wishes of our Founders from Trinity Church on the Green, the Edwards Sisters, Christ Church has a commitment to read the Daily Office daily. Morning Prayer is offered 8:00am Monday through Friday, at 8:45am Saturdays, and at 7:30am Sundays before the first Mass. It is expected that the St. Hilda interns will attend on weekdays. There are a few parishioners who attend, as well. Weekday Morning Prayer is officiated by parish laity or St. Hilda’s staff and interns. Evening Prayer is read at 5:15pm before the 5:30pm Low Masses on Tuesdays and Thursdays by the acolyte of the Mass. There have been periods in the past when simple Evening Prayer was read weekdays at 5:15pm even when Mass was not to follow. The Daily Office publicly offered is always Rite I. Moreover, numbers of parishioners at Christ Church keep a private rule of life which includes the Daily Office, a regimen some follow in relation to one of several Episcopal Religious Orders.
Christ Church was one of the first American Episcopal parishes to reintroduce the Great Paschal Vigil, the heart of the year’s worship. All Services of Holy Week (Palm Sunday, choral Tenebrae on Spy Wednesday, the full Maundy Thursday & Good Friday Rites, and the Paschal Vigil & First Mass) are kept with great reverence and the prescribed solemn ritual. The great feast of Christmas fills the church and includes Blessing of the Creche & Family Eucharist with Carols at 4:30pm Christmas Eve / Carols, Festal Procession to the Creche & the Solemn Christ Mass at 9:30pm / & Christmas Day High Mass with Carols at 11:00am. On principle Holy Days, traditionally Holy Cross, Michaelmas, All Saints, Epiphany (Feast of Title), Candlemas, Annunciation, & Ascension either the Choir will sing a Solemn High Mass with Procession, or the congregation will sing a High Mass. A festive parish potluck follows and serves as an important social gathering for parishioners. In past years, on the Saturday nearest St.Francis’ Day an Eucharist with Blessing of Animals was offered in the garden close for parishioners’ pets. Christ Church keeps All Souls with 3 requiem Masses, the last a Solemn Requiem with catafalque. From Advent until the Presentation, the Sunday High Mass concludes with the Last Gospel. In Advent and Lent, the Litany is sung in Penitential Procession. The Litany of the Saints has been sung in procession on All Saints Sunday, the Great Paschal Vigil (always), & Pentecost. All Sunday High Masses of Eastertide begin with the Asperges. Festal Processions are employed on Easter Sunday, Low Sunday, Rogation (with Blessing of Garden), Ascension Sunday, Pentecost, Trinity, Corpus Christi (transferred), the Assumption (transferred), All Saints Sunday, Christ the King, The Baptism of Christ, Transfiguration, Palm Sunday, and any major Holy Day transferred to Sunday. At Solemn Pontifical Masses, the congregation kneels in respect as the Bishop passes in procession giving the Episcopal Blessing. Solemn Te Deums with double thuribles are offered on Sundays of All Saints, Christ the King, Transfiguration, and Trinity.
Solemn Choral Evensongs
Several times a year Solemn Choral Evensong with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is offered at 5:00pm on Sundays. Often the great Anglican Cathedral composers of the 20th Century are featured instead of the more prominent Renaissance and Classical composers heard at the High Mass. An Evensong in Thanksgiving for All Church Musicians is offered in conjunction with other major church choirs in New Haven in November, often near St. Cecilia’s Day, and Benediction is usually not part of this Service. Two of the most popular Services of the year at Christ Church are the Advent Procession with Carols and Christmas Lesson and Carols, employing incense and following the English models of the Services.
Stations of the Cross and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament
Architect Henry Vaughan designed for Christ Church one of the most moving sets of Stations in the American Church. Stations and Benediction is offered at 5:30pm every Friday of Lent (Stations alone on Good Friday). The devotions currently used were put together from a rich variety of sources by the previous Rector.
Currently, and for the last five years or so, Confessions have been heard by appointment with clergy, except for Good Friday. In past years a weekly set hour (Saturdays at 9:30 following Low Mass or 4:00pm preceding Evening Prayer) was announced for Confessions in addition to private appointments. On Good Fridays, unscheduled Confessions are heard by 3 clergy using the two confessional booths in the nave and the altar rail in the Lady Chapel. In years past, Confessions were also heard at a set time on Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and near or on Christmas Eve. The former rector had a discreet ministry as regular Confessor to numbers of students at the Berkeley Seminary. But, instruction in the purpose and benefits of the rite and guidance in a discipline of regular sacramental confession are elements of Anglo-Catholic tradition and practice of which the congregation is once more in need, as recorded in the parish surveys collected in the Interim process.
Recitation of the Rosary and Marian Devotion
The Rosary is prayed corporately by parish members of the Society of Mary on Saturday mornings after the Low Mass in Advent, Lent, and on Easter Saturday. The church tower bells call the neighborhood to the Angeles at noon and 6:00pm daily, and the Angeles or Regina Caeli is prayed daily after Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer; at evening it may be replaced by a sung Marian antiphon. In years past, a more active Society of Mary met for the Rosary and a potluck and discussion of Marian spirituality after Feasts of Our Lady without a High Mass: the Conception, Our Lady’s Parents, the Visitation, Assumption Day, and the Coronation. When the Saturday morning Low Mass was not the monthly Requiem or a Prayer Book Holy Day, it was kept as a votive to Our Lady. A station is made at the Lady Shrine during appointed High Mass Processions, sometimes including a choral or congregational Angelus. And, many worshipers at Christ Church light candles and offer prayers at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Epiphany after every Mass and Daily Office, or throughout the day just coming in off the street.