Christ Chapel is celebrating two very exciting anniversaries this year, the 50th anniversary of Christ Chapel, and the 40th anniversary of Christmas in Christ Chapel (CC in C).
Christ Chapel was constructed in the fall of 1961 and dedicated in 1962. It sits at the geographical center of campus. The design and architecture was well thought out for its time. The cement walls were poured right on the Gustavus campus, the spires that wrap around the Chapel are thought of as part of a crown, with the biggest spire being the 178-foot steeple extending from the basement up into the sky.
Stained glass windows also surround the whole building. The idea is that the light either shines up or down, just as God shines on his people. Many people who enter the chapel stand in awe of its beauty.
“Imagine how amazing it is now … just think about fifty years ago,” Chaplain Rachel Larson said.
On Jan. 7, 1962, the Chapel was dedicated. That March, President Edgar Carlson gave the academic dedication. He wanted the academic part of the college to be reflected in the worship aspect.
“Chapel is a worship space and it is also a learning space where faith and learning intercept,” Larson said.
In the fall of 1962, Richard Albey became the first full time chaplain. Before that, President Carlson served as both the president and chaplain of Gustavus Adolphus College.
In 1972, the first Christmas in Christ Chapel was held. Unlike today, it was one community worship service of lessons and carols held on a Sunday afternoon. Former organist David Fienen described it as being “Chapel’s gift to the community. It was an opportunity which so fits this place … to explore ideas in the context of the Christmas service/concert is really significant.”
The idea of Christmas in Christ Chapel was to “incorporate and have more than music and clergy. To have a different theme each year and use art and dance to include more of the community and campus’ gifts,” Larson said.
Over the years, C in CC expanded to three services, and now has reached its peak at five services over a three day period. Around 6,000 people attend the service annually. Every year the slate is wiped clean and a new theme is chosen of for the next Christmas in Christ Chapel.
The central theme informs the shape and nature of the program.
“It keeps it fresh,” Fienen said. “It’s not just telling a story, it is an idea unfolding,”
Distinguished Chair in Music Greg Aune has been a part of C in CC for eighteen years now. In his early years, he was the artistic director for the service. Now he oversees the music for of the service.
“Every year the service really does have a unique view to it. That started with Richard Albey,” Aune said.
Aune has always appreciated the celebration of the birth of Christ, as well as the other layers. He described the “other layers” as pieces of the service that are removed from the focal point. These include the songs, themes and artwork of the service.
This year’s theme is “Jubilee: Proclaiming the Year of the Lord’s Favor.” According to Judaic tradition, the fiftieth year is the Jubilee year. In the Old Testament of the Bible, the seventh day or seventh year is known as the Sabbath. The fiftieth anniversary is like the “Sabbath of Sabbaths,” Larson said.
In the past the service has emphasized music, art, or cultures of a different country. This year it was decided to “keep it local.” St. John’s Abbey donated the St. John’s Bible for the creative aspect of the service. Large reproduced images of artwork are going to be projected on screens this year.
Over the years David Fienen experienced many different happenings in the Chapel. From the beginning, he noted that the Chapel was an open invitation.
He referred to it as “a rich involvement of the music department of musical life in the chapel, all the choirs and solos or esambles performing.”