Parish Evensong congregation grows from just one to more than 70 – with the help of church choir and a home cooked meal


A parish in the heart of Canterbury has celebrated the success of an Evensong service whose congregation has jumped from just one person to more than 70.
A choir in red robes stands smiling in the church of St Paul Without Walls in Canterbury

St Paul’s Without the Walls has seen its evening service of choral music and traditional liturgy grow in popularity after introducing a home cooked meal. 

The idea came to parishioner Michael Keeler-Walker following suggestions the service would be stopped.

He said: “We had Choral Evensong once a month, but often it was irregular and sometimes just dropped. 

“Despite a choir of 18, often the only congregant would be the person doing the reading.  
“So, we decided to go back to basics. It became regular, each month, focussing on good food, good fellowship, good preaching, and good music.”

A home cooked meal is now offered after each service and the church has seen a large increase in worshippers.  

Beginning prior to the pandemic, and despite the Government restrictions over the last few years, the services have continued to thrive following lockdown, with guest preachers attracting more congregants and swelling the choir’s ranks.  

“People are drawn to our services and even after the pandemic we have had more than 50 people coming to services,” Michael added.

“We're interacting with people we never did before and it's been hugely enriching for the parish.”

The efforts of St Paul’s Without the Walls has been celebrated online, and dozens of parishes have been in contact to learn to replicate the success. 

“The Book of Common Prayer is seeing a real revival in churches across the country,” said Bradley Smith, the Prayer Book Society chairman. 

“New generations are discovering the beauty, depth and majesty of these words, many through services of Choral Evensong such as in St Paul’s Canterbury.”

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