The Daily Hours at Sewanee

When I was a sophomore in college I attended a retreat with the St. Alban's chapel college group. We went to Sewanee, TN, where we stayed at the St. Mary's retreat house and spent our days hiking and cave-exploring or bumming around the campus of The University of the South. Each day included some of the divine hours or daily office - whether it was the morning prayer said with our little group at the retreat house, or the Sung Compline by candle-light in the glorious cathedral-like chapel at the University. It was there, on what they like to call "the holy mountain," that I seriously began to consider that God's still small voice might be calling me into a vocational ministry, much like what Father Patrick (St Alban's pastor) was doing. In the years since, Sewanee has become for me a place of pilgrimage and renewal.

My experiences there were also some of my very early experiences with praying the daily office of the historic church. Now, as a pastor and especially as a member of the Order of St. Luke, I have a commitment to use the daily office to shape my regular time of prayer (much like John and Charles Wesley themselves). Most days this means, for me, praying through the morning or mid-day office from The United Methodist Book of Worship (UMBOW). The four daily prayer services found in that worship book (morning, mid-day, evening, and night) are more flexible and (potentially) shortened forms of the offices as they are practiced by Anglicans.

One of the great things about the divine hours, as is mentioned below in the video, is how they connect our daily rythms to the great story of God. The morning service as the sun is rising reminds us of the women going to the tomb around sunrise to find Christ risen, and the rising sun points us back to the Rising Son and invites us to ponder it. The mid-day office (especially in some of the prayers found in the Book of Common Prayer) reminds us in part that Christ was hung on the cross at mid-day. As the lamps are lit for evening as the sun is setting, we remember the Light of Christ, to whom John the Baptist testified, taking flesh and dwelling among us in a dark world. At compline, or night prayer, we always (in the Methodist and Anglican rites) recite the Nunc Dimitis of Luke 2:28-32 before closing our eyes to sleep and, as the Archbishop of Canterbury once put it, we 'rehearse' in preparation for the end of our own lives, commending ourselves into the hands of God.

The video below is about the use of the Daily Office at Sewanee. Below that is a version of the United Methodist rite of Evening Praise and Prayer that can be easily printed on a single piece of card stock and used privately or in groups. The prayers of the people could come in the form of a pre-scribed litany (such as the "standard" litany included in the Evening service itself at UMBOW p. 575-6, or the suggested alternative litany at UMBOW p. 495), or the people could simply lift up names, concerns, and prayers extemporaneously, with the call and response said following each concern.


Evening Praise and Prayer
As taken from The United Methodist Book of Worship, p.574 and The United Methodist Hymnal p.878

One: Light and Peace in Jesus Christ.
All: Thanks be to God.

[ Incense may be burned with these words:
I call upon you, O Lord; come quickly to me; give ear to my voice when I call to you.
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you;
and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. (Psalm 141:1-2) ]

The Gloria Patri may be said or sung (see Hymnal #70):

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Hymn(s) may be sung

This or another prayer may be said by a leader or by all in unison:

We praise you and thank you, O God,
for you are without beginning and without end.
Through Christ, you created the whole world; through Christ you preserve it.
You made the day for the works of light
and the night for the refreshment of our minds and bodies.
Keep us now in Christ; grant us a peaceful evening,
a night free from sin; and bring us at last to eternal life;
Through Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit, we offer you all glory,
honor, and worship, now and forever. Amen. (4th Century Evening Liturgy)

Scripture Reading(s)


Song of Praise: traditionally, “Magnificat” (Hymnal #198-199); or another song may be used

Prayers for ourselves and others. After each prayer the people may respond:
One: Lord, in your mercy,
All: Hear our prayer.

The Lord's Prayer

One: The grace of Jesus Christ enfold you this night. Go in peace.
All: Thanks be to God.

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