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The service of Nine Lessons and Carols has become an annual tradition at Mayesville Presbyterian Church, where the congregation will again this year host a presentation of the Christmas story through music and scripture readings.
The 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15, service featuring congregational carols, choral music and the readings by community members is the church's gift to the community and a celebration of the coming of Christmas.
Organist and choir director Tammy Williams has coordinated the program and the roster of readers and musicians, who, in addition to the church's choir, include a string quartet of Lauren Decker, Kyla Kitterman, Deja Lint and Brandi Sloan, as well as Mayesville Presbyterian's handbell choir directed by Carol Ann Compton.
The Rev. Brian Peake will officiate the service, and, as is customary, church and civic leaders will read the scripture. This year's readers include Dr. Gordon Reed, pastor of New Harmony Presbyterian Church; Selena Ruth Smith, a Mayesville firefighter; Nancy Williams of St. Mark United Methodist Church; Rose Rhodes, president of Women's Ministries of Mayesville Presbyterian Church; the Rev. Franklin Garrett, pastor of St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Mayesville; and Angie Bland, Mayesville Presbyterian Church treasurer.
The service will begin with "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," a hymn of the Advent season, which began Sunday. Williams noted that "the 9th-century chant reminds listeners of the centuries of metaphorical darkness through which ancient peoples awaited the coming of the Messiah."
Music will continue with familiar choral selections of the Christmas season, among them "O Holy Night," "Ding, Dong Merrily on High," an arrangement for strings and choir of "Comfort, Ye My People" and others. The congregation will be invited to sing along with several standard carols - "Joy to the World," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" and "While By the Sheep."
The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols started in 1880 by a bishop in Truro, England, as "a little lesson" held on Christmas Eve night and supposedly designed to keep the community's men away from the pubs on that evening. Each of nine scripture readings is followed by a carol reflecting on its lesson.
The service continued at Truro and was eventually presented in 1918 at King's College to celebrate the end of World War I. From there, the service quickly spread to other churches, cathedrals and colleges. The King's College annual performance has been broadcast live on radio since 1928 and can be heard on S.C. Public Radio on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols now begins with "Once in King David's City."
"Although the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols developed within the Anglican tradition," Williams said, every mainstream Christian denomination has adopted it. "Mayesville Presbyterian is pleased to share this tradition with the community."
While the 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 15, event is free to the public, the congregation suggests that those attending bring a nonperishable food item to donate to Sumter United Ministries. A reception will follow the service.
Mayesville Presbyterian Church is located at 109 W. Sumter St., off S.C. 76 in Mayesville.
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