[General Theological Seminary] The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church (GTS) spent last week putting the finishing touches on an hour long television program, Christmas in Chelsea Square, that will air over CBS stations nationwide on December 24th at 11:35 pm (EST). The 194-year-old seminary was selected by the network last summer to produce the annual television special. The central portion of the program features a traditional Christmas service of lessons and carols for which the homilist is the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop and Primate, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori.
Also featured are excerpts from a reading of Clement Clarke Moore’s famous poem that begins, “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” as well as a brief segment that introduces viewers to the Seminary’s history and present day mission. General is known for the beauty of its Episcopal liturgy and music as well as its idyllic campus located in the Chelsea district of New York City on property donated by Moore and known as Chelsea Square. Nearly all the network’s affiliates will broadcast the annual Christmas special.
For the two day period in early November when the chapel service was filmed, it seemed Christmas had arrived at the Seminary — even before the season of Advent had begun! Fortunately for those in charge of decorating the Chapel, New York City’s famous wholesale flower district, just a few blocks to the north, came to rescue as Christmas trees, pine roping, and other decorations were available there even that early in the holiday season. Seminarians and their families decorated the Chapel and the refectory where the poem was read, and also attended numerous rehearsals for the twelve musical selections that are part of the program, including one which features the school’s resident woodwind ensemble. Staff, faculty members, and young people from the Seminary community also read lessons and helped in innumerable ways with the production.
“It was great to see our entire community embrace this project so enthusiastically,” said General’s president, the Rev. Lang Lowrey. “The result will be a gift of scripture, music, and the beauty of Episcopal liturgy from our Seminary and the Episcopal Church to countless viewers nationwide.” President Lowrey also thanked the Communication Office of the Episcopal Church’s denominational headquarters for providing generous assistance with the filming and editing of the program.
Those who are in church on Christmas Eve can hopefully use video recorders to capture the special for later viewing, said GTS VP Bruce Parker who directed the special. Parker added that the Seminary will be making DVDs available (with supplemental footage such as faculty commentary on the five scripture readings featured in the service) and that there are also plans to offer the program over the Seminary’s website.
The General Theological Seminary, located in the heart of New York City, educates and forms leaders for the church in a changing world. Founded in 1817 as the first theological seminary of the Episcopal Church, General offers certificate and degree programs including the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Theology. The Seminary is also home to the Desmond Tutu Center, a full-service conference center with sixty modern guest rooms.