Warm candlelight and organ music greeted the congregation that filled Battell Chapel last Sunday evening.
The Episcopal Church at Yale, the Luther House Campus Ministry and the University Church in Yale held a joint service in Battell Chapel Sunday evening. The venue filled up quickly with members of both the Yale and broader New Haven communities. Organizing ministries delivered prayers, carols and hymns.
“First and foremost, the music is beautifully arranged and performed,” said Caroline Tasirin FES ’19. “Also, it’s nice because it’s a collaboration, and we support each other and show love”.
The Episcopal Church’s organist, David Simon, played Olivier Messiaen’s “la Nativité du Seigneur” as the congregation entered and settled into the pews. The hum of conversation soon quieted down as the Episcopal Church and University Church choirs entered, starting the evening’s prayers with a light and soft processional hymn titled, “Once in Royal David’s City.”
As the congregation sat down after singing the hymn, the Chaplain of the Episcopal Church, Reverend Paul Carling, gave the evening’s bidding prayer, welcoming all into the season of Advent, a time of the year in which Christians prepare to celebrate the Nativity of Christ.
The prayer was followed by the first lesson, chapter 1 of Genesis, and the first carol — a traditional Chinese song titled, “Pengyou, Ting!” The University Church choir sang the joyful melody while an organist played the tune, adding a multicultural twist to the evening’s events.
Brian Li ’21 said he enjoyed the atmosphere and warmth of the church, as well as the diversity in the carols.
“I particularly enjoyed one of the first carols they sang, the one that was in Chinese — that was really good,” Li said.
The second lesson, narrated by University Chaplain Sharon Kugler, preceded the second hymn titled, “People Look East.” The congregation stood to sing the uplifting hymn and the choirs harmonized to fill Battell Chapel’s high ceilings with sound.
After the third lesson, the Episcopal Church at Yale Singers sang “No Small Wonder,” a soft and moving carol that preceded the fourth lesson, and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” the poignant and quintessential Advent hymn.
The University Church choir sang “All Poor Ones and Humble” after the fifth lesson. Written by Katharine Emily Roberts, the emotional piece is also called the Poverty Carol. The choir and audience then joined to sing the uplifting “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” a timeless Advent hymn.
“The Christ Child Lay,” sang by the University Church choir, started out softly and gained volume as it continued. The hymn “Toda la Tierra” provided an energetic contrast to “The Christ Child Lay.”
After the eighth lesson, the University Church choir entered the stage again to sing “Bethlehem Down.” After the voices and organ reached a crescendo during the final verse, the congregation stood up to sing the gleeful and well-known “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” as one of the final hymns of the night.
The last carol, sung by both choirs, was a traditional Nigerian piece titled “Oba Ti De.” Accompanied by a djembe, a traditional African drum, the exuberant carol consisted of just four repeated lines but filled the entire church with a resonant medley.
After Interim Associate Pastor of the University Church Reverend Jenny Peck led the christmas prayers, the lights dimmed. As the choirs began to sing the first verse of “Silent Night” in German, members of the University Church walked in the aisles to help light each congregation member’s candle.
The service ended with a merry performance of “Joy to the World,” a fitting finale to an evening celebrating the start of the Advent.
Aakshi Chaba | firstname.lastname@example.org