Taking part in Compline

A very new experience for me was joining others (on the inevitable Zoom) to participate in a short daily service which marked the end of every day of Advent. As a died in the wool nonconformist, I see set orders of service as a bit alien and have never consistently attended (for example) Anglican worship so that the settings of weekly or daily services became familiar. What is fascinating for me is how various elements of the order for Compline which we followed shone out on different evenings – such as a moment of penitence or of praise, or a reminder of the need for preparedness (“for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh”). Each time I took part something particularly “spoke” to me. Sometimes this was uncomfortable – a sharp reminder of mortality, or consciousness that I most sincerely need to ask for mercy after the thoughts and actions of a tough day. But every one of these brief services ended with a sense of peacefulness, safety and repose and a reminder of the support of the community of Heath Street Chapel. By looking at the parable of the wise and foolish virgins day after day, new layers of meaning emerged, and hearing individual voices beautifully singing Wachet auf and O come, O come, Emmanuel each evening, there really was time to consider the words, and the music, in a way that a quick run through a hymn on a Sunday morning (in the great days when we were allowed to sing) cannot provide. Advent for me for many years has been much more about the secular run up to Christmas with too much work to finish before the year-end, too many cards to buy and write against the postal deadline, all those presents to find and food to plan and prepare, and somehow squeezing in parties and social events too. This year, restrictions mean not only that much of this disappeared but the days of December 2020, being so very like all the dull days since March, might have been really hard to treat as special preparation for Christ’s coming. The rituals of lighting our Advent candle and joining in Compline made the end of 2020 special in a positive way. Huge thanks to Ewan for these ideas and Ewan and John-Henry Baker and Chris Little for putting together the lovely little Compline booklet, and to the varied companions of different December evenings.

Gaynor Humphreys

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