St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, located at 139 Pearl St., Buffalo, invites all to celebrate Christmas by participating in worship experiences based on the rich and relevant traditions instituted by King’s College in Cambridge, England, and Salisbury Cathedral.
At 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22, the cathedral choir and treble choir, under the direction of The Rev. Canon Robert Duerr and Canon Dr. Abigail Rockwood-Puehn, will lead a "Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols," which will authentically reflect the original serviced offered by King’s College. To that end, the King James Version of the Bible will be used for the lessons, and prayers will be said in Elizabethan-inspired English. The choirs will sing works by Herbert Howells, Anthony Piccolo and Carl Rütti.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the King’s College service being broadcast over the radio.
The first part of the 11 p.m. Christmas Eve service will be based on the “From Darkness to Light” service from Salisbury Cathedral. Worshipers will sit in the darkness and stillness of the night waiting for the shimmering of light to appear. After some silence, a prayer and a reading, a single candle will be lit and then a few more. Gradually, all will be enveloped by the soft glow of candlelight generated by dozens of candles while scripture is read and while the choirs sing familiar Advent and Christmas carols. The joyous sounds of pipe organ and various instruments will pleasantly pierce the quiet night, inviting worshipers to sing “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The service will continue with music offered by the choirs, including the St. Nicholas Mass, favorite carols sung by all, including “Silent Night” by candlelight, and “Joy to the World,” in honor of its 300th anniversary. All are welcome to receive Holy Communion.
The 5 p.m. Christmas Eve service is based on the “Crib” service popular among Church of England cathedrals. Although geared for children, all ages can enjoy the dramatic telling of the first Christmas as the cathedral children, in costume, will create nativity tableau. Favorite carols will be sprinkled throughout the story. This service includes some interactive components for all children, and will conclude will Holy Communion.
The 10:15 a.m. Christmas Day service will be a simple “Christ Mass” with carols. All are encouraged to bring new blankets to fill a “manger.” The blankets will then be distributed to the homeless and those with limited resources through the church’s “Garden of Love” ministry, a weekly offering of food and clothing.
The church strives to offer worship that inspires and leads to action in the world. The blanket drive is one expression of that belief. As the candles grow in brightness, worshipers are invited to reflect on how they are adding brightness in the world.