Episcopal churches observe Advent season with Christmas pageants, Lessons and Carols, Blue Christmas services

By Shireen Korkzan
Posted Dec 5, 2023

Trinity Wall Street in New York City’s youth chorus performs during a Christmastime Lessons and Carols service. Photo: Trinity Wall Street

[Episcopal News Service] Dec. 3 marked the first day of the 2023 Advent season, and many Episcopal congregations will be observing with musical and family-favorite festivities throughout December — including staging Christmas pageants, hosting Lessons and Carols and offering blue Christmas services.

The following is a list of some Episcopal parishes hosting online events. Check for additional events hosted by local dioceses and parishes in your area. All events listed are free and open to the public unless specified otherwise. All times are local.

Christmas Pageants

St. David’s Episcopal Church — On Dec. 17 at 11:30 a.m. and Dec. 18 at 7 p.m., St. David’s Episcopal Church in Wayne, Pennsylvania, will host a family Christmas pageant in the chapel. Both events will be livestreamed.

Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral — Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, Washington, will host its annual music-filled Christmas pageant on Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. in person and via livestream. The pageant will include choral music and instrumental accompaniment.  “St. Mark’s pageant of the nativity is not a reenactment of a single event in history, but rather a reflection and meditation on a sacred story which has spoken to people around the world and across the ages.”

Grace Cathedral — On Dec. 24 at 11 a.m., Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, California, will host a Christmas pageant featuring carols and prayer with California Bishop Marc Andrus. Registration is “highly recommended.” The pageant will also be livestreamed on the cathedral’s website.

The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd — The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Norfolk, Virginia, will host a Christmas Eve family worship service and pageant on Dec. 24 at 9 a.m. A livestream of the service will be available online.

The Cathedral of St. Philip — The Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, Georgia, will host a Christmas pageant on Dec. 24 at 4 p.m. in the nave. The event will be livestreamed along with other Christmas Eve services.

Lessons and Carols

Lessons and Carols — also known as Nine Lessons and Carols, the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, and the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols — is an Anglican worship service traditionally celebrated on or around Christmas Eve. During Lessons and Carols, nine stories from Scripture, including the promise of the Messiah and the birth of Jesus, are read aloud. The service usually includes singing Christmas carols, hymns and choir anthems.

The American Cathedral in Paris — The American Cathedral in Paris, France, hosted a Lessons and Carols service on Dec. 3. A livestream of the service is available on the cathedral’s YouTube channel.

All Saints Church — On Dec. 10 at 5 p.m., All Saints Church in Pasadena, California will host a candlelit Lessons and Carols service featuring the Coventry Choir singing motets, carols and canticles. The service will be livestreamed.

St. John’s Episcopal Church — On Dec. 10 at 5 p.m., St. John’s Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, will host its annual Lessons and Carols service followed by a “festive reception.” The service will be livestreamed.

Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church — On Dec. 17 at 5 p.m., St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, will host its annual lessons and carols festival. St. Paul’s will stream the festival live on its website.

Trinity Episcopal Church — Trinity Episcopal Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, will host a Lessons and Carols event on Dec. 17 at 5 p.m., followed by a light service reception. The event will be livestreamed on Trinity’s website.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine — On Dec. 24 at 3:45 p.m., The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City will host a Lessons and Carols service. The event is free, but reservations must be made online. The service will also be available to livestream via the cathedral’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Blue Christmas 

Blue Christmas services are quiet and contemplative worship services that typically occur on the evening of the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. They provide opportunities for congregations to offer solidarity and comfort to those who are grieving the loss of loved ones during the holiday season.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church — St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in DeKalb, Illinois, will offer a Blue Christmas worship service on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. The service will include an opportunity for participants to light candles “to acknowledge that this time of year is difficult for many who have lost loved ones or are facing challenges in their daily life.” St. Paul’s will host a “time of gentle fellowship” after the service.

Church of the Good ShepherdChurch of the Good Shepherd in Vancouver, Washington, will offer a Blue Christmas service with music and a special meditation on Dec. 10 at 1 p.m.

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church — On Dec. 13 at 7 p.m., St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Wellesley, Massachusetts, will offer a spoken Blue Christmas service. Participants will have the opportunity to silently light a candle and pray for the year that has passed and for the new year.

Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross — On Dec. 17 at 5 p.m., Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross in Dunn Loring, Virginia, will offer a Blue Christmas: A Service of Grief for the Holidays. “This liturgy is meant for those who long for the solace and hope of the Lord without the pressure to be merry. 

Saint Christopher’s Episcopal Church — St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Chatham, Massachusetts, will offer a Blue Christmas service on Dec. 21 at 5 p.m. in the chapel. Participants will have the opportunity to name the people they mourn, “preparing us for the renewal that the birth of the Christ child promises.”

The Episcopal Church of the Advent — On Dec. 21 at 5:30 p.m., The Episcopal Church of the Advent in Crestwood, Missouri, will provide a light supper followed by a Blue Christmas worship service at 6:30 p.m.

 -Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at skorkzan@episcopalchurch.org.

 


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