The Winchester Service is The Book of Common Prayer's Sung Holy Communion according to the private use of Bishop Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester (1619-26).
It is held at St Helen's, Abingdon-on-Thames on most 5th Sundays in the year at 5.30 pm.
no service in April
This ‘Winchester Service’ is so-called because it reflects those tendencies as found in the worship in the chapel of Lancelot Andrewes, the Bishop of Winchester (1619-1626). Not only was Andrewes key in the production of the King James Bible of 1611 (whose texts are used at this service) and one of the foremost preachers of his age, he was keen to beautify Prayer Book worship under inspiration from ancient and, as we would say today, ‘ecumenical’ sources of which he was an acknowledged master. Andrewes’ customs were not unique, though, and the spirit and atmosphere of such worship was prized through the difficult years of the Commonwealth by many who in the 1660s brought Prayer Book worship back to life.
The words of the service follow the order authorized in 1662. That version of the Book of Common Prayer was the result of huge changes in the life and thinking of the Church of England since 1604 (when a few small changes were made to the 1559 Prayer Book). One key development was an interest in enriching the rather stark earlier Prayer Book practices with richer music and other sensory effects. Much of that interest occurred under the inspiration of the worship of the ‘ancient church’ to which Anglicans looked with greater zeal for guidance in doctrine, prayer and worship practices
Because the 1662 Book of Common Prayer gives little practical direction about details of the Holy Communion, guidance must be gleaned from other sources (many suggestive rather than directive), and adaptations must be made in light of customs and advances over the intervening centuries (for instance, in the use of congregational hymns for which the 1662 BCP makes no provision). The point is to provide an opportunity for “Prayer Book worship” that has a prayerful and worshipful atmosphere, even ‘personality’, that speaks for itself in up-lifting the whole person in adoration to God through Christ in the Spirit, and that expands the kinds of worship available at St Helen’s.
The core of the music is the congregational singing of John Merbecke’s justly famous sixteenth-century setting of the Communion service The Booke of Common Praier Noted (1550). Our aim is to complement that with musical additions that honour the overall spirit of the service.