UPDATE 8/18: With the return of a Sunday Morning service of Holy Eucharist on August 23, the cathedral's experiment with Morning Prayer has concluded. Eucharist will be continue to be offered every Sunday as we enter the fall season. Please reach out to the cathedral or to Dean Thomason directly and let us know what your experience of this liturgy was like.
For a period of time this summer, Saint Mark's Cathedral will adapt the rhythms of its Sunday Morning livestreamed liturgy. On July 19 and 26, the cathedral will offer a service of Morning Prayer instead of Holy Eucharist, harking back to the standard practices of the Church until the last generation. A service of Holy Eucharist will return August 2, followed by Morning Prayer again on August 9 and 16.
This pattern or services, with Eucharist only once a month, and morning prayer at other times, was the normal practice at churches of the Anglican tradition until the liturgical reforms of the mid-to-late 20th century. Morning Prayer, or Matins, is part of the cycle of prayer services contained in the Book of Common Prayer collectively known as "The Daily Office," which in the current prayer book includes Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer (called "Evensong" when sung), and Compline.
Writing at the dawn of the current global pandemic, The Most Rev Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church, wrote:
Many factors contributed to a general decline in the celebration of the Eucharist well into the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and Morning Prayer became the common service of worship on the Lord’s Day. And while it is good and right that the situation has changed dramatically, that the Holy Eucharist has again become the principal act of worship on Sunday across our church, few would suggest that the experience of Morning Prayer somehow limited God’s presence and love to generations of Anglican Christians. [...]
While not exclusively the case, online worship may be better suited to ways of praying represented by the forms of the Daily Office than by the physical and material dimensions required by the Eucharist. And under our present circumstances, in making greater use of the Office there may be an opportunity to recover aspects of our tradition that point to the sacramentality of the scriptures, the efficacy of prayer itself, the holiness of the household as the “domestic church,” and the reassurance that the baptized are already and forever marked as Christ’s own.
For a few weeks this summer, Saint Mark's will be taking up the Presiding Bishop's invitation. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact any of the clergy and let us know what you think of this experiment.