Celebrating a Virtual Lessons and Carols

This past Thursday at 5:30 PM, Lawrenceville’s annual Lessons and Carols took place on a digital platform for the first time.

This past Thursday at 5:30 PM, Lawrenceville’s annual Lessons and Carols took place on a digital platform for the first time. The prerecorded event, led by Hallelujah! Chaplain Reverend Greg B. Jones, Director of Spiritual and Religious Life Reverend Sue Anne Steffey Morrow H’12, and School Organist Tom Goeman, featured scripture readings, music, and prayers.

The event started with an introduction from Morrow, followed by a performance by Goeman of “O’ Come All Ye Faithful” on the organs and a prayer by Morrow.

“We pray for healing for all of those who are sick, we pray for comfort for those who have lost loved ones, we pray for peace throughout the world, and we pray for hope that comes shining down on all,” said Morrow.

After a reading by John Weaver ’21, there was a pre-recorded video of the Lawrentians in 2018 performing “The Sussex Carol.” Next, Ava Conyer ’21 gave a reading from the Gospel of Luke, followed by a performance from the Lawrentians in 2016 singing “Dixit Maria.” Head of School Steve Murray H’54 ’55 ’65 ’16 P’16 ’21 presented the final reading, and the Lawrentians from 2019 performed “Sure on this Shining Night.” According to Morrow, Director of Music Robert Palmer assisted Morrow and Goeman “in carefully handpicking music and verses of scripture to reflect the turbulence of the past year and bring feelings of hope for the next.”

Given this year’s circumstances, Morrow explained how the format of the traditional Lessons and Carols had to be altered and shortened to include only three readings and three carols, instead of the six performed in previous years. However, she still hoped to create a program that would stay “true to the spirit of Lessons and Carols and to the reality of this year.”

To finish the event, Jones delivered the Benediction, saying, “In these extraordinary times, with the joy of what our eyes have seen, what our ears have heard, and what our hearts have felt, go out into the world, and may grace abound to each and every one of you, [and] may love be multiplied in your heart and life.”

Seeing as the event was prerecorded in early November before Winter Term plans were finalized, one of the biggest challenges Morrow experienced was filming an event for mid-December in early November. To prepare, Christmas trees were ordered for Edith Memorial Chapel in early November, and the altar was banked with Christmas greens, silk flowers, and poinsettias, with Visual Arts Teacher Gil Domb P’17 filming and compiling everything.

“When we realized that Lawrenceville would most likely be remote during the Winter Term, we also realized that we want to find a way to have Lessons and Carols so that Lawrentians around the world could draw together in this cherished Lawrenceville tradition,” said Morrow.

Morrow also explained how she wanted to “thread the occasion with joy in the midst of the tragedies of this year: the deaths of George Floyd…, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks...among others, the pandemic, [and] not to mention the vulnerability of our democracy.”

As a result, Morrow hand wrote the openings and prayers, as opposed to using the traditional ones from Kings College Cambridge as was done in years past.

Isabel Sung ’21, a member of the Lawrentians, reflected, “It’s definitely disappointing that we couldn’t celebrate Lessons and Carols in person because it’s one of my favorite events on campus, but [Morrow] did a really great job of encapsulating the feeling of being there in person. It made me even more excited for next year!”


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