Reflecting on the 43rd Christmas in Christ Chapel

Posted on December 9th, 2015 by

Christmas in Christ Chapel 2015.

The 2015 Christmas in Christ Chapel worship services, held Dec. 4-6, marked the 43rd annual Christmas celebration at Gustavus Adolphus College. This year’s theme was “Shalom, Salaam Bethlehem” and took the audience on a journey, joining the global travelers and residents of Bethlehem, Palestine, to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace and give voice to our shared hope for peace in this world.

For the second year, the Saturday evening worship service was streamed live on the Gustavus website to audiences across the country and around the world. This year there were over 5,500 unique page views on the live stream website, which represents a significant increase over 2014’s inaugural broadcast. Heroic Productions, led by Jon Young ’77, provided lighting and sound for the services and produced Saturday’s live stream.

More Christmas in Christ Chapel…
For pictures of the “Shalom, Salaam Bethlehem” Christmas in Christ Chapel services, visit our Flickr album.
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Reflecting on the Experience of “Shalom, Salaam Bethlehem…”
As is tradition at Gustavus, over 350 students, faculty, and staff came together to share music, dancing, poetry, and the joy of the Christmas season with the community in St. Peter and around the world. After an action-packed weekend featuring five worship performances, Christmas in Christ Chapel participants took a moment to describe their experiences…

Karin Dye ’16 | Viola | Gustavus Symphony Orchestra
I would say there is something pretty powerful about putting on a worship service of this magnitude five times in one weekend. As the rehearsals and performances go on, you tend to feel a little bit weary and tired of repeating the same service. But singing “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful” at the end with so many people always makes it worth it for me. It isn’t often you have an opportunity to connect with a community of that scope in beautiful and soul-baring worship. But we as the musicians got to do it five times each year for four wonderful years. Production, decorations, and programming aside, the opportunity for a community to worship together is the coolest part of Christmas in Christ Chapel. I will miss it!

Sam Panzer ’16 | Bass | Gustavus Choir
As I prepare to enter the alumni community, this year’s focus on striving for peace in the world and expressing gratitude for the good in our lives was a deep source of joy and contentment. There is so much to be grateful for during the weekend of Christmas in Christ Chapel, from the hard work of hundreds of students, to the generosity of alumni who support the live streaming efforts, to our incredible and inspiring directors who lead the show.

The sensation of sitting upright in those white pews near the end of the show while the Choir of Christ Chapel sang “Thou Gracious God, Whose Mercy Lends” was moving. Watching them sing their gratitude for “the hands we clasp” and “our loving circle” was the most powerful of the service for me. This bombastic piece sums so perfectly the lasting beauty and community that comes together for Christmas in Christ Chapel.

Kendra Frey ’16 | Violin | Concert Master for Gustavus Symphony Orchestra
My last year of Christmas in Christ Chapel flew by. It was exhausting, but I was so proud of the final result and happy to work with so many fantastic musicians from all across campus. One thing I have always loved about Christmas in Christ Chapel is that it connects hundreds of musicians in five different ensembles. We’re all from different academic departments, and even our musical lives don’t cross daily, but we all come together to help the Gustavus community celebrate Christmas. I also loved seeing how powerful the performance was for audience members. When I saw audience members begin to cry during “Thou Gracious God, Whose Mercy Lends” on Friday night, I knew we had connected with our audience and made an impact, and I couldn’t wait to do that four more times. One of the things that I will miss most after graduation is the strong feeling of community at Gustavus, and I was glad to be a part of the even larger Christmas in Christ Chapel community for one last time.

Dr. Aune conducted his 100th Christmas in Christ Chapel on Sunday evening.

Dr. Aune conducted his 100th Christmas in Christ Chapel service on Sunday evening.

Dr. Gregory Aune | Conductor | Gustavus Choir
This past Sunday night I had the privilege of participating in my 100th Christmas in Christ Chapel service. Each year, a diverse and dedicated team of individuals meet to plan and execute a unique and meaningful service that combines the spoken word, music, and dance to tell the Christmas story through a relevant and provocative thematic idea. Additionally, great care and attention is given to the decor and ambiance of the chapel, so that the visual experience of those that attend enhances and supports the theological and musical thrust of the program.

All of the factors cited above are of course critical to the success and production of the program, but at the core of Christmas in Christ Chapel you will find the students who tirelessly rehearse and give of their time and talents to make the five services a reality. I know I speak for all of my colleagues in the chaplain’s office and the theatre and music departments when I say that our ultimate hope and desire is that the student participants in Christmas in Christ Chapel have an experience that is at once educational, spiritually uplifting, and meaningful. These Gusties are proud to share their talents and are passionately committed to this event. Personally, my greatest joy of the Christmas in Christ Chapel weekend is watching and listening to our students. I am so proud of them and so thankful that I have the profound opportunity to work with them and share this experience with them.

Chaplain Siri Erickson | Christmas in Christ Chapel Artistic Director
With so many people disheartened by recent acts of violence, this year’s Christmas in Christ Chapel service inspired people to remember God’s vision of shalom and to engage in the creation of a more peaceful world. Through beautiful music and dance and poignant readings, the Gustavus community lifted the spirits of over 10,000 people who gathered in Christ Chapel and around the world to prepare their hearts and minds for the Christmas season.

During quieter moments in the service, I prayed for our Christian sisters and brothers in Bethlehem, Palestine, and for people around the world who are impacted daily by acts of hatred and violence. The whole service, with its theme of shalom, salaam – peace in this world – was a sustained prayer that we all would become agents of love and compassion in this world.

I am so proud of our Gustavus students who dedicated their hearts and voices to lifting up a hopeful message for all who attended Christmas in Christ Chapel this year. I am grateful for the faculty, administrators, and staff who devoted their creative energy, talents, and time to making this year’s services meaningful and uplifting.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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