Jesus College to deliver Trinity ‘Evensong by Email’

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Image Description: Jesus College Chapel, Oxford 

Jesus College Chapel intends to offer ‘Evensong by Email’ on all Sundays of Trinity term, in light of restrictions associated with Coronavirus which will make it impossible for chapel communities and choirs to come together. 

The aspiration to provide virtual worship is being led by Jesus College Chaplain, The Reverend Dr John Findon and Chapel Music Co-ordinator Peter Parshall, in association with the chapel choir and Organ Scholar Edward Buxton. 

The typical format of the Evensong liturgy will be included within the body of an email, while links will take participants to audio recordings of other key elements such as readings, prayers and music, which will change on a weekly basis.  Preachers who were due to speak in the chapel next term will deliver their sermons as recordings, and Senior and Junior members of the College will record the weekly readings and prayers. 

With some technical ingenuity, the choir will record a hymn for each Sunday, along with the College Hymn, Guide me, O thou great redeemer, which will feature each week.  Organ Scholar Edward Buxton said: “We’re very excited to be getting involved with this project.  It’s certainly no substitute for the real thing but a great way of maintaining choir morale nonetheless, as people across the country and beyond get involved.  I’m sure we’ll sound just great too, as weird as it might feel hearing your singing played back to you.”

Peter Parshall, Chapel Music Co-ordinator at Jesus College, told The Oxford Student that he and the Chaplain were motivated by their recent task of having to arrange liturgy and music for funerals during the lockdown.  Through this they were inspired by an explosion of online musical activity, allowing them to meaningfully contribute to these ceremonies.

Mr Parshall said that through conversations with the Chaplain in light of the cancellation of Trinity term’s chapel and choir activities, they decided to pursue a way to “bring together the choir community in a project which would also benefit the whole College community.”  He hopes that, despite daily term-time life coming to an abrupt halt, the chapel and choir “might still maintain something of what Jesus, as a community, shares week by week and that, although meeting in person is not possible, our connectivity is not broken.”

Later in term, sermons will be delivered by a range of speakers including Francis Spufford, the celebrated novelist and Christian apologist, Cherry Vann, the new Bishop of Monmouth, Professor Sarah Foot from Christ Church, and Daniel Timms, a recent undergraduate. 

Jesus College Chaplain, The Reverend John Findon, remarked that “at a time when finalists in particular have to face the disorientation of remote examinations and assessments, and during the Term when social frolicking will be most missed, we want all of our members who tune in to know that there is a ‘still, small voice’ at the heart of our life here and that it does not change.”

Other Oxbridge college chapels, where the tradition of Choral Evensong has usually continued uninterrupted for centuries, have similar plans afoot to bring worship and music to homebound congregants.  Corpus Christi College, Oxford, intends to produce a series of podcasts and short videos to mark special occasions in Trinity term, such as Ascension Day and Corpus Christi Day, while Jesus College, Cambridge, will be delivering ‘Evensong-lite’ via Facebook. 

Image Credit: Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar 

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