Sundays at Christ Church
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.