When members of the Perkins community gather in the Perkins Chapel for Advent Worship on Thursday, December 5, at 6 p.m., they will be marking three milestones: the 60th anniversary of Perkins’ Master of Sacred Music program, the 80th anniversary of the Seminary Singers, and the 60th anniversary of the Advent service itself.
Advent was first celebrated in Perkins Chapel in 1959, a tradition continued every year since.
The worship will follow the classic Lessons and Carols format, with five lessons from scripture and five carols, plus a reading of one of Martin Luther’s sermons.
“The service will focus on the legacy of the Advent services here at SMU,” said Marcell Silva Steuernagel, Assistant Professor of Church Music and Director of the Sacred Music Program at Perkins. “This legacy revolves around the idea of a community gathered to ‘await together’ the coming of the one who is Emmanuel. As we wait, we sing our expectation together. Because of this the service is not a ‘concert’ in presentational format, but participatory. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear anthems performed by MSM alumni and to sing several classic Christmas hymns as well.”
One aspect will be different this year: there will be just one service, at 6 p.m., rather than the two services in past years.
“People’s schedules are very different than they were in 1959,” Steuernagel said. “The 6 p.m. time gives us the best of both worlds – late enough for those who want to come after work, and early enough that senior attendees can get home at a reasonable hour.”
The single time slot also makes it logistically easier for participation by visiting ensembles and musicians, including three choirs led by alumni of the MSM program. Each will perform at least one anthem, plus there will be a joint performance of all three choirs. The choirs are from Dallas area churches: Northaven United Methodist Church (choir directed by Stephanie Rhoades, M.S.M. ’96); University Park United Methodist Church (directed by Mark Pope, M.S.M. ’99); and Grace Avenue United Methodist Church of Frisco, Texas (directed by Laurie Hanson Roberts, M.S.M. ’90, and Bill Roberts, M.S.M. ’92).
Steuernagel also plans to incorporate a piece by composer Jane Marshall, who passed away in 2019 and had many ties to SMU and Perkins. He is also composing an original piece for the occasion.
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. Parking for the Advent Service will be in the Meadows Museum Parking Garage located across the street from Perkins Chapel.