For the first time in memory, the Office of the Chaplaincy and the Department of Music were not able to hold the annual Candlelight Festival of Lessons and Carols. Richmond was covered with an unexpected 13 inches of snow on Sunday, December 9, one of the largest early snowfalls ever recorded in Richmond.  The Festival had been scheduled for the same day.   

The Festival, often called ‘Candlelight,’ began in 1974 as a partnership between the Office of the Chaplaincy and the Department of Music under the leadership of Dr. David Burhans, Chaplain to the University and Dr. Jim Erb, Professor of Music. Over the years, the service grew in popularity and attendance such that a second, identical service was added in 1997.  Throughout the years, the service has become important for the greater Richmond region, and faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the University of Richmond have come together to participate in the special event. For many, attending the Festival has become a family tradition that marks the beginning of the Christmas season. 

The service is modeled after the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols that is held annually in King’s College Chapel at Cambridge University in England. The first service was held on Christmas Eve 1918 and was planned by Eric Milner-White, who had just been appointed Dean of King’s College after completing his experience as an army chaplain. In 1919, a revision of the liturgy was made involving rearrangement of the lessons, and from that date, the service has always begun with the hymn, Once in Royal David’s City. The order of service has changed little over the past four decades. The nine lessons, opening prayer, and benediction have remained consistent, and the readers continue to be chosen to represent the University of Richmond community. The choice of carols has varied and new ones have been introduced, but the beauty and tradition of this service is truly enduring.

We look forward to renewing this grand tradition in 2019.