The Christmas Convocation: A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols in St. Saviour’s Chapel signaled the beginning of the Christmas season Dec. 13. Some students, alumni, parents, faculty and administrators gathered for the traditional service, which featured performances by the Madrigals and an Upper School Instrumental Ensemble.
“It’s special because it is a uniquely religious ceremony at a school that is not a religious school,” said Jeanne Huybrechts, who has participated in the Christmas Convocation every year since she became Head of School in 2006. “It is a tribute to the history of the school.”
The tradition of Christmas Convocation originated at Kings College in Cambridge, England in 1918. Harvard School made it a tradition to hold the religious service in St. Saviour’s Chapel in the early 1900s, and school chaplain Father James Young has been conducting the Christmas Convocation at Harvard-Westlake for the last 20 years.
In his sermon, Young contrasted a fantasy version of a perfect Christmas with the Christmas celebrations of most families. Pointing out that the first Christmas was far from ideal, Young encouraged listeners to find satisfaction in their own Christmas celebrations, despite their imperfections.
“I like the fact that [the Convocation] brings our community together for something that is so different from that which we normally do,” Young said. “It is virtually the only time of the year that we stop and do anything spiritual [at school].”
The service opened with an organ prelude and a middle school choral quartet. Following a brief prayer by Young, the Madrigals entered the Chapel carrying candles and singing the traditional hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”
There were nine readings of biblical passages describing the Christian story through the birth of Jesus Christ during the service. In between the readings, there were musical offerings, including traditional carols that the Madrigals sang with the audience.
Student representatives from each grade, Katherine Kihiczak ’21, Michael Lehrhoff ’20, Chase Garvey-Daniels ’19, and prefects Princie Kim ’18, Lexi Block ’17 and Hunter Brookman ’16, read the first six scriptures, and President Rick Commons, Harvard-Westlake Parents Association Proogram Vice President Nancy Kaleel and Huybrechts read the last three passages.