Annual Festival of Lessons and Carols Holiday Service To Be Held on Campus
The Westminster College campus community will hold its annual Festival of Lessons and Carols holiday service at 5 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 9, in The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury. This is the 35th anniversary for the service which is free and open to the public.
Doors will open for seating at 4:00 p.m. and a hot chocolate reception catered by Fresh Ideas will be held following the service in the Undercroft of the Church.
Lessons and Carols is a community worship service that seeks to celebrate the birth of Jesus through scripture and song.
“The Lessons and Carols service is a time to celebrate together with the broader Fulton community,” says College Chaplain and Director of the Center for Faith and Service Kiva Nice-Webb. “A time of warmth in the midst of cold, hope in the midst of chaos, and a time to pause in the midst of a busy season of life—whether busy with final exams or holiday shopping or just the day-to-day grind. Come pause with us, and soak in some warmth as we approach the coldest, shortest days of the year!”
Patterned after the festival held at Cambridge University in England, Lessons and Carols is a Christian service held during the season of Advent, which is described by Chaplain Nice-Webb as “a season of hopeful, expectant waiting,” offering a time to reflect in the midst of the world’s troubles and longest of nights our hopes for a better world.
“In Christian tradition, this hope is personified in the celebration of the birth of Jesus,” says Chaplain Nice-Webb. “But we all have hopes for the world that anchor us in times of turbulence and chaos—and it is the light of that hope, like candles that we light during the cold seasons, that we celebrate in an Advent service like Lessons and Carols.”
The service includes prayers and the reading of nine scriptures pertaining to the Christmas story by members of the Westminster community as well as members of the Fulton community and carols sung and performed by the Churchill singers and student soloists.
Readers for the service include Khaled Khalili ‘19 from Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic; Bridget Ringwald, ‘19 from St. Louis, MO; Leticia Dos Santos Ferreira, ‘19 Limburg, Timor-Leste; Naima Caydiid, ‘19 from Watertown, CT; Alondria Buggs ‘19 from Florissant, MO; Mason Evers ‘19 from Centerton, AR; McKenna Peters ‘19 from Quincy, IL; Tania Lay Guterres ‘19 from Hong Kong, Timor-Leste; Tychirra Moreno ‘19 from St. Louis, MO; Rev. Mindy Kiepe, pastor of Fulton First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ; Shannon Cerneka, youth minister at Fulton’s St. Peter’s Parish; and Westminster President Dr. Fletcher Lamkin.
Prayers will be offered by Rev. Rebecca Dunger-Peak, pastor of Fulton’s Court Street United Methodist Church and Shiloh United Methodist Church in Holts Summit, and Rev. Keller Hawkins, Chaplain Resident and Coordinator of the Office of Community Engagement.
A welcome will be offered by Chaplain Nice-Webb and Student Government Association President Lydia Creech, ‘19 from Republic, MO. The Charge and Benediction will be delivered by Rev. Nice-Webb.
Music for the service will be provided by the Churchill Singers. The singers will be accompanied by Gretchen Huedepohl, who will also play an organ prelude and postlude. Director of the Churchill Singers is Dr. Natasia Sexton, Associate Professor of Music, Coordinator of Fine Arts and Director of Choirs. Before the event, Christmas selections will be performed by local harpist Melissa Purvis.
“Although the Lessons and Carols service is rooted in tradition and formalities, each year the message of redemption for our sins and light out of darkness with the accompanying music truly brings hope, joy, peace, and love,” says Dr. Sexton. “In this way, year after year, I find it to be the quintessential Advent experience.”
The Churchill Singers will begin the service with the processional “Once in Royal David’s City,” the carol that traditionally opens the original Lessons and Carols service at King’s College, Cambridge, a service which dates back to Christmas Eve, 1918.
Another Westminster tradition established over the last few years is the beginning carol, “O Come All Ye Faithful,” sung by the choir and congregation with the accompaniment of the 38-rank tracker Mander pipe organ.
“This is always a very moving experience because all the voices and the organ resound throughout that beautiful, open space,” says Dr. Sexton. “For me, this moment signals the beginning of the Christmas season.”
The service will close with arrangements of “Joy to the World” and “Silent Night, Holy Night” on the Mander organ in the church balcony.
“When Gretchen Huedepohl brilliantly plays the organ introduction to “Joy to the World” after the 9th lesson each year, it lights up St. Mary’s,” says Dr. Sexton. “It is the 9th lesson manifest in music, and there’s no other place I’d want to be.
The event is being hosted by the Center for Faith and Service.
For additional information, interested parties can contact Chaplain Nice-Webb at 573-592-6213.
The heart of the National Churchill Museum on the campus of Westminster College is the magnificent Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, a 17th century Christopher Wren church left in ruins from German bombings during World War II. This beautiful house of worship was brought stone by stone from England to Westminster and restored on campus in 1969.