5 Things You May Not Have Known about Moravian Vespers
Moravian College hosts a yearly service at Central Moravian Church known simply as “Vespers.” In this service, there are musical acts designed to worship and a candlelight service.
Many Moravian College students participate through music and volunteer work, and many Moravian College graduates return: to pause and reflect upon their past and to seek out joy for their future.
Did you know the tradition of Vespers started in Bethlehem in 1756, even before the Central Moravian Church was completed in 1806? Here are a few more Vespers facts you may not have been aware of...
1. Undergraduate Volunteers
Over 100 Moravian College undergraduate students are needed as volunteers to make the night possible. The Head Usher, this year Shelby Maigis ‘18, recruits from campus groups to fill the role of ushers and candle watcher. “We use sports teams, Greek Life, clubs, organizations, and random good samaritans” said Adriana Facchiano ‘19, 2017 Assistant Head Usher.
2. The Pyramid of Behind the Scenes Student Workers
In order to make Vespers possible, many roles and positions must be fulfilled. Of course, our lovely Chaplain Jennika Borger, falls at the top. Following her are the Head Sacristans, this year Angela Kilburg ‘18 and Corinne Kauermann ‘19, and the Head Usher, listed above as Shelby Maigis. The role of a Head Sacristan is to “organize all the candle serving and oversee all the behind the scenes work. [I also] direct all the Corner Captains, who are important to helping all things run. [The Head Sacristans] are really important to helping everything run smoothly” said Corinne Kauermann. Then there are the Assistant Head Sacristan and the Assistant Head Usher, this year Ross Traphagen ‘19 and Adriana Facchiano, respectively.
Beneath the Head Sacristans, there are Corner Captains. Jessica Wall ‘19 explained that “A Corner Captain is the right hand man to the Head Sacristan. We dip the candles in kerosene, light the candles, open doors, train the Candle Servers, and make things run as smoothly as possible.” The Corner Captains this year were comprised of Megan Bauman ‘19, Zachary Benjamin ‘19, Jake Carlson ‘18, Jaime Ernst ‘19, Rebecca Fulton ‘18, Brandon Harkins ‘18, Mollie Miller ‘21, Rachel Myers ‘18, Haley Rogers ‘21, Jonathan Rupell ‘19, Jessica Wall ‘19, and Marne Wigfield ‘19.
3. There Exists a Committee with the Sole Purpose of Planning for Vespers
There is a group called the Vespers Planning Committee, with about 30 members between faculty, FMPC, staff, development office, students, and the Moravian College Chaplain, which helps to plan for the six nights of service.
4. Candle Servers: The Perk of Being a Moravian College Grad
Once you graduate and start to miss the life of a Moravian College student, please don’t forget that you can always return to Vespers as a Candle Server! Many graduates make it a yearly tradition, and often it is their favorite part of the season.
Two Moravian College graduates, Nancy Price ‘84 and David Price ‘82, told the story of how the candles used to be made by a service sorority specific to Moravian called Sigma Tau Sigma. The group would spend an entire weekend in November pouring the candles, and would often rope their boyfriends into it, according to David Price. He explained how the cutting of the red paper ribbons for the candles used to be made, with a screw clamp and box knife, each paper cut individually, but done 50 at a time. Nancy Price explained that the candles were made from beeswax, and that there was an officer in their sorority devoted entirely to the job of tracking the progress and existence of the candles for the year.
5. History of Trombone Ensemble
Every Vespers service starts with the Trombone Ensemble playing in the Bell Tower of the Central Moravian Church. The Trombone Choir was originally used to announce the beginning of a church service, to play a song signifying a death, and more. However, legend has it that the Moravian Trombone Choir actually scared away a Native American attack in early American history. When the natives heard the barbaric sounds coming from the tower, they ran away. Today, the Trombone Ensemble plays Christmas songs for about 20 minutes before the Vespers service starts, and they always try to end with “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
Other Interesting Facts:
- “The big copper ball on the top of the church is actually 403 lbs.” -Luke Peterson ‘19, Choir
- The FMPC group spends hours nightly helping to clean and prep the church for the following days and nights.
- “The Central Moravian Church is the oldest Moravian Church on the continent.” -Jonathan Ruppell ‘19, Corner Captain
- “The clock in the Bell Tower is the oldest functioning American-made clock.” -Benjamin Sharp ‘19, Trombone Choir & Brass Ensemble