Parish churches have been at the heart of communities for more than a thousand years. But now, fewer than two in one hundred people regularly attend services in an Anglican church, and many have never been inside one. Since the idea of ‘church’ is its people, the buildings are becoming husks – staples of our landscapes, but without meaning or purpose. Some churches are finding vigorous community roles with which to carry on, but the institutional decline is widely seen as terminal.

Yet for Richard Morris, post-war parsonages were the happy backdrop of his childhood. In Evensong he searches for what it was that drew his father and hundreds like him towards ordination as they came home from war in 1945. Along the way we meet all kinds of people – archbishops, chaplains, campaigners, bell-ringers, bureaucrats, archaeologists, gravediggers, architects, scroungers – and follow some of them to dark places.

Part personal odyssey, part lyrical history, Evensong asks what churches stand for and what they can tell us; it explores why Anglicanism has often been fractious, and why it has become so diffuse. Spanning over two thousand years, it draws on new discoveries, reflects on the current state of the Church in England and ends amid the messy legacies of colonialism and empire.

Reviews

At its best when reminding us how deeply embedded these buildings are in the English landscape and when exploring, how the intimate meanings they have held can be rediscovered . . . At the book's heart is the question of the place of faith in the modern world . . . a warm, thoughtful and generous-spirited book with a profound sense of the importance of traditional spiritual devotions in the modern world.
Catholic Herald
It can sometimes be regarded as an institution out of time but, as this intimate, idiosyncratic account notes, the Church of England continues to influence public life and private morality well into the 21st century. Centred around a series of reminiscences of the author's relationship with the church's practices, places and people, the book also has much to say about issues of community and identity.
BBC History
In Evensong, Richard Morris, whose father was himself a parish priest, considers the history and current fragile state of the Church of England
Choice
This memoir pulls off a difficult task . . . the story that it tells is a very human story of a father and son, a vicar and an archaeologist - and a compelling story it is . . . Richard Morris avoids nostalgia, and, as one would expect from an archaeologist, sets out a layered story of the different people and places whose character is vividly drawn here . . . On one level, it is a celebration of the parish; on another, it is a ringing affirmation of the importance of our church buildings
Church Times
An exploration of the current state of the Church of England amid messy legacies of colonialism and Empire
The Tablet