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Little Rock church brings back ancient tradition

By Ashley Nerbovig

This article was published July 11, 2014 at 10:10 a.m.


People wait on Sunday, July 6, 2014, for Christ Church Little Rock's Compline Service to begin.

Christ Episcopal Church - Compline service

(By Ashley Nerbovig)
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Christ Church Little Rock has brought back an old tradition to attract a new audience.

Scott Walters, rector at Christ Church in downtown, said the church began compline in an effort to invite a different audience to the church. Previously they had used a jazz ensemble to attract people in the evenings; however, when that played itself out, their choirmaster Steve Bullock put together the compline choir, Walters said.

“We’re sort of being tongue in cheek when we call it a seeker service,” Walters said. “When you think of seeker services, it tends toward guitars and trying to be contemporary. This is truer to who we are. You can tell when you listen to it that it’s grounded in ancient tradition.”

Compline goes back to the monastic traditions of the Episcopal Church, when Sundays required seven hours of prayer. As the church has evolved, it put aside some hours as its traditions changed.

“Even though the prayers are explicitly Christian, people are not forced to participate or make any creeds,” Walters said. “It’s just a way for us to share our traditions, similar to if I went into a traditional Buddhist monastery, I would like to learn about their religion.”

The compline service is being revived in many communities as a way to give what Walter calls a “gift from the choir.”

One of the largest compline services is currently in Seattle at Saint Marks Cathedral, where the church said it can see up to 500 people for its “meditative service.” That church's prayer is also broadcast on a local radio station.

Walters said their audience is smaller, usually topping off at 40 people, but he hopes it will grow as more people become aware of this event in the evening.

“We have a tradition of keeping our doors open as much as possible,” Walters said. “People can slip in, attend and get whatever they need out of the service.”

The service begins at 6:45 p.m. every Sunday at Christ Church Little Rock, 509 Scott St., and lasts about 15 minutes.


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