This may be Christmas time to most, but for those people who attend a liturgical church – those that follow the church calendar year – the season we’re in is Advent. Menlo Park’s two Episcopal churches, Trinity and St. Bede’s will each be celebrating the Advent season – and the coming Christmastide – with a traditional service of Lessons and Carols this weekend and next.
The Rev. Matthew Dutton-Gillett, rector at Trinity Church, provided a brief tutorial on this historical worship service: “The service of Lessons and Carols has its roots in the Church of England. Traditionally, the service has a Christmas theme and consists of nine lessons interspersed with the singing of carols, hymns and choir music. The readings trace the biblical story of the fall of humanity, the promise of the Messiah, and the birth of Jesus. It is based on an order of service drawn up by the Rt. Rev. Edward White Benson, Bishop of Truro in Cornwall, England, for use on Christmas Eve in 1880 (he went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury). It is said that a key purpose of the service was to keep men out of pubs on Christmas Eve!
“The service of Advent Lessons and Carols is a more recent variant of this tradition. The concept is the same, but the lessons focus on the anticipation of the Messiah. While the original form of the service includes nine lessons, in practice it is common to reduce that number. The hymns and choral pieces are not Christmas music, but rather reflect the Advent theme of waiting and anticipation.”
Trinity’s service of Advent Lessons and Carols will be Sunday, Dec. 12 at 10:00 am. will consist of six lessons, interspersed with hymns and choral anthems including Adam Lay Y’Bounden, a traditional piece that does not have a composer credit, A Voice Cries Out by Mark Hayes and Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding by Eric H. Thiman. The Bell Choir will also be offering pieces.
St. Bede’s is having its Lessons and Carols service, which has more of a Christmas focus, on Sunday, Dec. 19 at 4:00 pm. Explains Priest Associate and Music Director the Rev. Jane McDougle: “There will be lots of choir, very nice organ, lusty congregational singing, candles, and a reception after featuring mince pies, cake, cookies, hot spiced apple cider, and mulled wine. The service will include poetry from the 16th century to now, including John Donne, Henry Vaughan, Christina Rossetti and T.S. Eliot. Our choir carols will also include a mixture of old and new with some Medieval words set to freshly composed music as well as old favorites and sacred harp songs.”