Silent Night Project unites Anglicans

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It's not quite the heavenly hosts singing alleluia, but close enough.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/12/2010 (4255 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s not quite the heavenly hosts singing alleluia, but close enough.

For the last month, congregations, choirs and assorted musical folk from local Anglican churches and beyond have recorded themselves singing the Christmas carol Silent Night and posted their efforts on YouTube to raise funds for military chaplains.

Choirs and assorted musical folk from local Anglican churches and beyond have recorded themselves singing the Christmas carol Silent Night and posted their efforts on YouTube (above) to raise funds for military chaplains.

“It’s a multi-layered project in terms of bringing the national church together and also to celebrate the ministry of military chaplains,” explains Rev. Donna Joy of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in River Heights.

Their seven-minute video features the congregation singing the carol by candlelight, interspersed with prayers by Rev. Capt. Gordon Mintz, the Anglican chaplain at 17 Wing Canadian Forces base. Joy says they decided to include the prayer to present a broader perspective in their video.

“We decided that the singing of that hymn really does need to be in the context of the needs of the world,” she says.

As well as St. Peter’s, another 10 local Anglican congregations — and 430 across Canada — have posted videos, as well as collecting a loonie or two from each participant.

“It’s fun, it’s a way people can be involved in something bigger (than themselves),” explains Lisa Barry, video producer for the Anglican Church of Canada’s Silent Night Project.

“This is a way of everyone expressing themselves creatively, and joining in.”

So far, the funds haven’t been officially counted, but Barry expects contributions to equal or exceed the $95,000 collected for the 2008 Amazing Grace project, which raised money for a suicide prevention facility in northern Canada.

A popular Christmas carol for nearly two centuries, the words to Silent Night were originally written in German by Austrian Roman Catholic priest Joseph Mohr and set to music by church organist Franz Gruber in 1818. Legend has it Gruber played Silent Night on his guitar on Christmas Eve of that year because the church organ was broken.

During the First World War, soldiers on the front lines sang Silent Night together in French, English and German during the Christmas truce of 1914.

Barry says submissions from small and large groups of Anglicans across the country, some in trained choirs, and others just ordinary folks in the pews, feature the carol sung in English, French, Cree and Inuktitut, but none in German.

Some of the videos have a decidedly homegrown flavour, with shaky video and background noises, while others obviously recruited the expertise of their congregation’s technical wizards.

“I love the fancy ones, I love the simple ones,” Barry says of the variety of videos posted on the denomination’s YouTube channel. “We’ll fit all the entries in a compilation video.”

Barry is compiling a clip from each of the uploaded videos into a 10-minute documentary about the project, to be posted online by Christmas Day.

In addition to his appearance on the St. Peter’s video, Mintz also organized folk at 17 Wing to belt out a few verses of the carol underneath pictures of Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

“To feel the support of the entire national church is wonderful,” says Mintz, 48, now in his first posting as a chaplain after a long career in parish ministry. “In its essence, this is the church being the church.”

And the videos and the cause they support are also the church’s witness, especially during the season when Christians wait for the birth of the infant Jesus, says Rev. Ian Mills of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t like the church and don’t like the faith and want to keep God a secret locked in their hearts,” says Mills, whose congregation recorded a short video in early December. “This is a statement that says wake up and see what can be.”

For the congregants of St. Stephen’s Anglican in East Kildonan, combining the singing of Silent Night with their annual Remembrance Day service in November brought home the need for the heavenly peace referred to in the popular carol.

“We’re in a different place now,” says Rev. Diane Guilford, referring to Canadian soldiers overseas in active duty.

“We’re in the midst of war and people are dying.”

brenda@suderman.com

Silent Night Project

Hear more than 400 renditions of the traditional Christmas carol at www.anglican.ca/silentnight/index.html and click on the video tab.

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