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Next Sunday evening is our annual Advent Festival! For those of you who have been around for a bit, the festival will be a little different than it has been in previous years. For those who are new, in the past, we have gathered in the Nave for a Lessons & Carols service followed by wreath making and ornament making in both the Nave and the Parish Hall.
This year, we’re changing things up a bit. For starters, the entirety of the festival will take place outdoors. We feel that this is both the safest option (especially given that there will be eating), but also because something we have learned in this Covid-time is that our courtyard can be a festive and beautiful place to be. And so, we’ll light a fire in the fire pit, and string lights, and pull our chairs around both to worship together and then to make those wreaths and ornaments. Another new piece to this year’s festival is that instead of writing cards to foster youth, we’re teaming up with an initiative of the Ella Baker Center and writing cards to people who have been incarcerated. This year you can either write cards while you are at the Festival, or you can take some cards home with you and write from home.
The other change we’re making this year to the festival is the service portion of the night. I’ll turn to Jamie for this part: Like many churches, All Souls has long held an evening service to mark the First Sunday of Advent. Until recently it was conceived within the tradition of the Advent Procession with Carols, which in turn had been derived from the service of Christmas Lessons and Carols that is famously associated with King’s College, Cambridge: a sequence of readings from scripture alternating with choral or congregational carols and sprinkled with prayer. The overall aesthetic of such services, wherever celebrated, typically aspires to that iconic King’s College exemplar, with its canon of favorite carols and composers sung by surpliced choirs; prophecies delivered in the language of the King James Bible; and a beloved bidding prayer that invites the gathered into the narrative arc of the readings. Before the pandemic, we had tried for several years to trim and relax this service, but were not always satisfied with its feel. This year, Emily and I started from scratch, soon finding inspiration in an Advent Procession based on the O Antiphons that is celebrated annually at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle. Rather than taking us through a progression from Genesis to Isaiah to Luke, the O Antiphons offer a variety of names for, and therefore a different perspectives on, the Holy One who comes into our midst. Three of the seven antiphons anchor tonight’s gathering, offering a new structure for contemplation of the season’s sacred mysteries.
Additionally, because the Sunday Night Service now meets at 5p (and the festival is at 5p), we’re going to have some of the Sunday Night Service musicians help lead the songs.
The final new element of the Advent Festival this year is that (drum roll, please) there will be a hot chocolate bar! Liz Lynch & some Lynch family members will provide a few types of hot chocolate and toppings to go with it. All to say, you’ll not want to miss this year’s Advent Festival. 5p in the courtyard on November 28th. See you then!
Emily & Jamie
P.S. Here’s a sneak peek of the Advent Booklet, complete with home liturgies, prayer practices and more!