The Orgins of the 5 PM Service
Paul L. Johnson | December 9 2021.
In the March of 1985, All Angels’ created an evening service to supplement the two services that met in the morning, at 9:00 and at 11:15 a.m. This third service at 7:00 p.m. on Sundays was intentionally informal and open to being “spirit-led”; and yet the Eucharist was celebrated every time. The evening congregation was partly made up of people who had been away for the weekend, and some who attended other churches in the morning; On the whole, a primarily white service.
Two years later, on the evening of July 17, 1988, the service had an unexpected shift. Fierce rain kept those who visited for afternoon meal inside, a community primarily composed of people of color. A baptism was planned for a black child, and a flock of his family visited church to witness his baptism.
While leading worship, Martyn, who had been rector for only six weeks, sensed many people were disengaged. Music Director Ronald Melrose remembered, “Martyn left the lectern, walked to the piano, said ‘Forget all the music we’ve planned. Play whatever will work,’ and went on with the service.” Ron knew two Gospel-style songs that he could play impromptu: “His Eye is On the Sparrow” and “Amazing Grace.” He started up the former, and both he and Martyn immediately knew it was the right choice. The whole room was singing. After that, Ron studied Gospel music and was soon proficient in the wellsprings of Gospel style and repertoire. In a matter of weeks the church purchased a second-hand drum set and Ron developed a volunteer Gospel choir accompanied by an instrumental trio. Following that, he composed a Gospel-style setting for the liturgy called the “Community Mass.” From that time, the evening service was for “the community.”
The service matured. So also did the congregation. In March of 1990, there were 44 people standing in line to be confirmed by Bishop Walter Dennis. Some had homes, others did not. The bishop had a heart condition, so he needed a small rest after confirming the first 22 people, afterwards completing the confirmations. The spirit of that service was later conveyed by Mr. Melrose:
“And this fellowship became ‘official’ on a joyous Sunday night a few months ago when Bishop Dennis received several 7 p.m. choir members as members of All Angels’ Church. Members. Not guests. Us. Not them. Praise God for that.”
And in the aftermath, Ron expressed the same joy by adding to his “Community Mass” a doxology that includes the lines: “Come to the table, come to the feast; all are invited, greatest to least. Sins have been pardoned, divisions have ceased. Come to the table, come to the feast.”
The time of the service was changed to 5 p.m., with a meal following (instead of an afternoon meal) about three years later. The work of the parish has been to expand the sense of “Us. Not them.” Intentional inclusiveness and a “spirit-led” evening service brought us to a greater realization of God’s love for us—the love we are commanded to share. Although the 5 p.m. service was suspended during the COVID crisis, it is now being brought back. Come — “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!”