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Bringing in the season: Bethel, area musicians to present “Lessons and Carols”

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College and area musicians will collaborate for an event on campus meant to usher in the Advent and Christmas seasons – and the community is invited.

A “Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” will take place in Memorial Hall Sunday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m. Bethel College vocalists and instrumentalists, along with singers from the Newton Chorale, First Presbyterian, First United Methodist and Trinity United Methodist Churches in Newton, Bethel College Mennonite Church in North Newton, Grace Hill Mennonite Church in rural Newton, First Mennonite Church of Christian in Moundridge and Hope Mennonite Church in Wichita, will join with the Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra for a Christian worship service that has a long tradition in Great Britain.

The Newton Ministerial Alliance is also participating in the service and asks people to bring non-perishable food items to be collected for the Harvest of Love campaign to stock the Newton food pantry. There will also be an offering taken.

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is the format for a service of Christian worship that celebrates the birth of Jesus. It is traditionally followed at Christmas.

Nine short readings from the biblical books of Genesis, the prophets and the Gospels, interspersed with choir anthems and congregational singing of Christmas carols and hymns, tell the story of the fall of humanity, the promise of the Messiah and the birth of Jesus.

Bishop Edward White Benson, who later became Archbishop of Canterbury, first drew up the order of this service for use on Christmas Eve 1880. The original liturgy has since been adapted and used by other churches all over the world.

“Lessons and Carols” most often occurs in Anglican churches but numerous Christian churches have since adopted this service or a variation of it as part of their Christmas celebrations. In the United Kingdom, “Lessons and Carols” has become the standard format for school Christmas carol services – the best known of these is broadcast annually from King’s College, Cambridge, on Christmas Eve, with carols sung by the famous Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.

The Bethel and Newton community version of “Lessons and Carols,” which may become an annual event, has several purposes, says William Eash, Bethel College professor of music.

It was planned with an aim “to collaborate with local arts and service organizations, to foster a spirit of working in community, to join together to celebrate and to engage the broader community,” he said.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2010-11 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is in the first tier in its category in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of “America’s Top Colleges” for 2011. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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