Members of the Perkins School of Theology community will gather in person for Advent Worship on Thursday, December 2 at 6 p.m. in Perkins Chapel on the campus of SMU.

Titled “Corde Natus Ex Parentis: An Advent Evensong,” the annual service will take place in person. Organizers hope to also offer the service online via livestream, pending several logistical issues.

“This year’s service will offer an opportunity for participants to reflect on the Advent season amid the ongoing pandemic, and will therefore be of a somewhat somber nature,” said Marcell Silva Steuernagel, Assistant Professor of Church Music and Director of the Master of Sacred Music Program at SMU.  “The theme of last year’s service was “waiting,” as we waited for the pandemic to be over. In 2021, we’re still waiting, although admittedly more hopeful as we approach the end of the year.”

The title is a nod to the hymn “Of the Parent’s Heart Begotten,” (The New Century Hymnal #118), written by 4th century composer Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-413). (Some may recognize the hymn by its other title, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten.”)  The service will feature two original compositions and a few congregational pieces, as well as organ music.

The Advent worship service has traditionally featured alumni/ae of the Master of Sacred Music (MSM) program; in 2019, several alumni/ae who led music programs in Dallas area churches brought their choirs to participate.

“We didn’t want to do that this year, given the ongoing COVID situation, so instead we have a few alumni/ae and current MSM students serving as part of a small ensemble that will perform and lead the service,” said Silva Steuernagel.

Silva Steuernagel added that the word “liturgy” means “work of the people;” thus the importance of ensuring the worship service is authentic and connected to what’s happening in real life at the moment. Trying to force the annual worship service “back to normal” too soon, he said, would only serve to mask the anxiety and trauma that people continue to experience.

The Advent service was instituted in 1959 by Professors Grady Hardin and Lloyd Pfautsch and is closely tied to the development of Perkins’ Master of Sacred Music Program.  A forerunner to this tradition was established in 1948 when Perkins Prof. Fred Gealy led the Seminary Singers, a non-auditioned ensemble of theology and sacred music students, and the Perkins community in a program of Christmas music during the last chapel service of the fall semester.

Worshippers should allow ample time for parking in the Meadows Museum Parking Garage located across the street from Perkins Chapel.

Attendees at the worship service must follow the university-wide COVID-19 protocols in place at SMU. Currently, that means that masks are strongly recommended. Seating will be arranged to help maintain social distancing. (Attendees should check this page closer to the date for changes or updates to COVID protocol.)

“We encourage worshippers to sing along, but from behind their masks,” Silva Steuernagel said.

Likewise, the overall tone of the service will reflect the caution with which most people are still approaching their Christmas plans.

“While we’re creating a service that is hospitable to the in-person format, we’re not yet back to singing together for 90 minutes as we did in the past,” Silva Steuernagel said. “But we can, and must, continue to nurture hope through the Advent Season.”