• Southwestern University hosts its 104th Candlelight Services Dec. 5.

On Thursday, December 5, 2019, Southwestern’s annual holiday tradition of Candlelight Services will take place in the Lois Perkins Chapel. The two evening ceremonies come four days after the start of Advent, a season marking the beginning of the liturgical year and observed by many Christian churches as a celebration of Christ’s nativity.

As in previous years, Candelight will occur the Thursday of the last week of fall-semester classes, offering an opportunity to reflect on past achievements and anticipate the future. Widely attended by members of the Georgetown community, the event also brings together the city and campus.

Julianne Snape, interim director of spiritual and religious life and chaplain, is looking forward to her first experience of the tradition. “This will be my first year getting to experience Candlelight!” she says excitedly. “I started in July, so I am really looking forward to the numbers of people gathering together to feel and be filled with the peace, joy, and awe of the service.”

Snape adds that this year, “Candlelight will have different voices throughout the service. Each reading will be given by a different person with a unique connection to Southwestern and the Candlelight service. Many of them are clergy or on their way to being ordained, some are lay leaders in their faith communities, and all of them love the beauty and tradition of Candlelight!” Choral and instrumental music will be provided by the Southwestern University Chorale and Singers, conducted by Beth Everett, visiting assistant professor of music. David Polley, university organist and part-time assistant professor of applied music, will also be performing.


Originally called the Christmas Carol Service, the 104-year tradition of Candlelight began under the direction of Phoebe Eleanor Jones Bishop—wife of Dr. Charles McTyeire Bishop, the University’s president from 1910 to 1921—with the assistance of Laura Kuykendall, who served Southwestern variously as an instructor of expression, the director of the girls’ gymnasium, and the dean of women from 1914 to 1953. The 1915 service consisted of a processional of 125 women singing Christmas hymns while accompanied by the Southwestern University Orchestra. It also included a prayer from one of the Methodist pastors in attendance, the singing of several holiday carols, the reading of a Christmas story, and a buffet dinner. At its inception, Candlelight was described as “the most beautiful and elaborate pre-Christmas entertainment ever given at Southwestern.” Today, Snape says that the ceremony captures the spirit of the SU community. “President Burger has mentioned a number of times the importance of spaces where our community can gather together and have a shared experience, and I couldn’t agree more,” she shares. “These kinds of spaces for congregating and sharing are rare, significant, grounding, and memorable. There is something magical, or perhaps mystical, about each person carrying their light among the many and then out into the world together.”

Southwestern welcomes all members of the campus and Georgetown communities to these long-cherished festivities. The two ceremonies are free to attend and will begin at 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 5, 2018, in the Lois Perkins Chapel. A hot cocoa reception, hosted by the University and the Georgetown chapter of the Alumni Association, will take place at 7:00 p.m. in the Bishops Lounge in the McCombs Campus Center.

The 6:00 p.m. service will be live-streamed for online viewing. On Thursday, December 5, click here to watch the Candlelight Service online. Please note: the link will not go live until December 5.

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