This Christmas Eve celebration features gospel and classical music, four choirs, two dance companies, and a spoken word artist. Emmy-nominated Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) will conduct the Art & Soul Chorus singing two gospel songs he composed: “Grateful” and “You’re My Joy.” This Christmas Eve worship also features music from “Sister Act 2”: “Joyful Joyful,” in which the church’s 50-member gospel choir is joined by dancers from dendy/donovan projects, Rod Rodgers Dance Company, and the children of Middle Collegiate Church. The Jerriese Johnson gospel choir performs the Academy Award winning song, “Glory” from the movie “Selma.”
Nationally recognized speaker and public theologian the Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, the senior minister of Middle Collegiate Church, offers a powerful sermon. The worship celebration concludes with a candlelight ceremony to the holiday classic “Silent Night.”
Middle Collegiate Church is a 1,200-member, multiracial, fully inclusive congregation in Manhattan’s East Village. The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis is the first woman and the first African-American to serve as senior minister in the Collegiate Churches of New York’s nearly 400-year history. The Middle Collegiate Church was founded in 1628 by Dutch immigrants, and is now co-affiliated with the United Church of Christ and Reformed Church in America.
“At the center of the Christmas story is hope…hope which comes to us in the form of a vulnerable, poor baby. A child, not a king, changes the world. God appears to us as a marginalized, Afro-Semitic, Jewish child from Nazareth in Palestine. A child who grows up to teach us to welcome the stranger. How would our world be different if we loved our neighbors as ourselves?” asks the Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, senior minister of Middle Collegiate Church.
In our country that is deeply divided around race and religion, Middle Collegiate Church is a rare place where Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, and Asian Americans worship together. Also Christian, Jewish, atheist, and Buddhist worshippers are drawn to the congregation because of its legendary music and commitment to the poor, the LGBTQIA+ community, and addressing race relations in our nation. On Christmas Eve, this congregation gives us a picture of unity and hope.
This Christmas Eve special is a production of the Middle Collegiate Church, directed by Broadway and television director Charles Randolph-Wright (“Motown: The Musical” and “Greenleaf”) and produced by award-winning producer Michael Hanna. Elizabeth Kineke and John P. Blessington are the executive producers for CBS. Jacqui Lewis is the executive producer for Middle Collegiate Church.
In addition to the Art and Soul Chorus, the following offer music and dance: the Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir, directed by John Del Cueto; the Middle Church Band, directed by Dionne McClain-Freeney; the Middle Church Choir, directed by Tami Petty; and the Village Chorus for Children and Youth, directed by John Del Cueto. In “Joyful, Joyful,” the first movement of the dance is choreographed by Mark Dendy of dendy/donovan projects; Middle Collegiate Church children are choreographed by Adrienne Hurd; and the second and fourth movements are choreographed by Kim Grier-Martinez of The Rod Rodgers Dance Company
The diversity of our congregation and staff looks like a New York City subway but it feels like a home full of love. Middle Church is where therapy meets Broadway; where art and dance meet a gospel revival; where old time religion gets a new twist. We are Bach, Beatles, and Beethoven; we are jazz, hip-hop, and spirituals. We are inspired by Howard Thurman, Ruby Sales, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Martin Luther King. We are on-your-feet worship and take-it-to-the-streets activism. We feed the hungry and work for a living wage; we fight for LGBTQ equality and march for racial/ethnic justice. We stand up for the stranger and the immigrant; we care for women’s lives and Mother Earth.
We’ve been to the border, we’ve rebuilt in Puerto Rico; we’ve been arrested while fighting for health care and supporting survivors of sexual violence. From Trayvon to Mike to Sandy to Eric—we know that when Black Lives Matter, all lives will matter.
Middle Collegiate Church and The Collegiate Church of New York is co-affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Reformed Church in America.