Newcastle church continues 130-year-old holiday tradition

Posted Dec. 15, 2011, at 9:27 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 27, 2012, at 2:10 p.m.
A young girl dressed as an angel participates in the 2010 version of the Newcastle Second Congregational Church's holiday Service of Lessons and Carols. The church is offering a similar program again at 10 a.m. Sunday.
Courtesy of Bill Bausch
A young girl dressed as an angel participates in the 2010 version of the Newcastle Second Congregational Church's holiday Service of Lessons and Carols. The church is offering a similar program again at 10 a.m. Sunday.

NEWCASTLE, Maine — If you don’t go to church often but love Christmas music, this Sunday’s morning service at a church in Newcastle is designed with you in mind.

That’s how Sunday’s service at the Second Congregational Church, UCC, is being billed. Following a tradition that dates back some 130 years, the congregation will enjoy a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, a back-and-forth presentation of nine short readings from the Bible alternating with Christmas hymns, carols and choir music. A bell choir, church chorus and the entire congregation will join in singing classic Advent and Christmas hymns.

Traditionally, the first reading is given by a child, followed by leaders of the congregation, ending with the senior pastor.

The format was developed by Bishop Edward White Benson of Truro, England, for use on Christmas Eve in 1880, partially as a means of keeping men out of the pubs, according to a press release from the church.

The program since has been adapted and used by churches all over the world. Lessons and Carols services most often occur in Anglican churches, but also in some Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Presbyterian institutions. Over the years, numerous other Christian churches have adopted variations of the service as part of their Christmas celebrations.

The service begins at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Second Congregational Church, UCC, which is on Main Street in Newcastle.

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