A night to remember

Published: Thursday 10th December 2015

Message from Associate Vice-Chancellor (NSW/ACT) Professor Marea Nicholson:The ACU Strathfield Campus once again hosted the annual Advent Lessons and Carols on Tuesday 2 December. This year’s event took place on a summer’s evening with the numbers doubling from the previous year.

The Chapel dome was resplendently lit with purple light to signify the Advent season with a myriad of candles and flowers to complement the display. Fr Anthony Casamento, ACU Director of Mission and Identity, presided over the service and the audience was welcomed by myself.

A service of Lessons and Carols was first held on Christmas Eve, 1918 at Kings College, Cambridge and was prepared by Chaplain Eric Milner-White. The revised service of 1919 began with ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ which subsequently became the traditional ‘First Carol’ of the service and was supplemented by a variety of appropriate musical selections to fill out the remaining list of Carols.

The order of the ‘Lessons’ and prayers was first developed by E.W. Bensen (later Archbishop of Canterbury) in 1880, for a short service of nine carols and nine lessons to be read by church representatives ranging in rank from chorister to Bishop.

The BBC’s broadcast of Lessons and Carols from King’s College Chapel began in 1928 and aided in the spread of this Advent practice to other parts of England and eventually across the world. As the decades-old tradition has continued, many Christian denominations have introduced their own versions of ‘Lessons and Carols’ for celebration during the Advent season.

The ecumenical order of service for Advent Lessons and Carols as it is celebrated at ACU Strathfield was adapted by Professor Clare Johnson in 2011 and has become a regular part of ACU’s end-of-year festivities over the succeeding years.

The Lessons have been drawn from those included for proclamation during the Advent season in the Roman Catholic Lectionary for Mass, and the prayers have been adapted from the Advent collects in the Roman Missal.

The selection of Carols changes each year, but honours the tradition of beginning with ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ as First Carol and concluding with ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ as Final Carol.

As a way of acknowledging the original design of Lessons and Carols, the selection of readers represents the range of academic ranks and general staff found at ACU, beginning with a chorister and proceeding through to the highest ranks of university administration.

The service was followed by refreshments in the Atrium, which took on the festive theme of purple and was brilliantly catered for by the ACU catering team. Choristers took the opportunity to thank Choir Director, Professor Clare Johnson, for her dedication to their choir, not only for the year but for years past. Members from previous years also were in attendance to thank Professor Johnson for her work with them.

Thanks to everyone who joined the celebrations this year and a special thanks to the ACU Choir whose efforts and dedication are essential to the success of this event.