Christmas in Chelsea Square

General Seminary TV Special to Air on CBS-TV Christmas Eve

The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church (GTS) has spent the last week putting the finishing touches on an hour long television program, Christmas in Chelsea Square, that will air over CBS stations nationwide on December 24th at 11:35 pm (EST). The 194-year-old seminary was selected by the network last summer to produce the annual television special. The central portion of the program features a traditional Christmas service of lessons and carols for which the homilist is the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop and Primate, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori. Also featured are excerpts from a reading of Clement Clarke Moore’s famous poem that begins, “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” as well as a brief segment that introduces viewers to the Seminary’s history and present day mission. General is known for the beauty of its Episcopal liturgy and music as well as its idyllic campus located in the Chelsea district of New York City on property donated by Moore and known as Chelsea Square. Nearly all the network’s affiliates will broadcast the annual Christmas special. For the two day period in early November when the chapel service was filmed, it seemed Christmas had arrived at the Seminary--even before the season of Advent had begun! Fortunately for those in charge of decorating the Chapel, New York City’s famous wholesale flower district, just a few blocks to the north, came to rescue as Christmas trees, pine roping, and other decorations were available there even that early in the holiday season. Seminarians and their families decorated the Chapel and the refectory where the poem was read, and also attended numerous rehearsals for the twelve musical selections that are part of the program, including one which features the school’s resident woodwind ensemble. Staff, faculty members, and young people from the Seminary community also read lessons and helped in innumerable ways with the production. “It was great to see our entire community embrace this project so enthusiastically,” said General’s president, the Rev. Lang Lowrey. “The result will be a gift of scripture, music, and the beauty of Episcopal liturgy from our Seminary and the Episcopal Church to countless viewers nationwide.” President Lowrey also thanked Communication Office of the Episcopal Church’s denominational headquarters for providing generous assistance with the filming and editing of the program.

Those who are in church on Christmas Eve can hopefully use video recorders to capture the special for later viewing, said GTS VP Bruce Parker who directed the special. Parker added that the Seminary will be making DVDs available (with supplemental footage such as faculty commentary on the five scripture readings featured in the service) and that there are also plans to offer the program over the Seminary’s website (

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Media Contact: Bruce Parker Senior Vice President for External Relations The General Theological Seminary 440 West 21st Street New York, NY 10011 (212) 243-5150 x285

Christmas in November? GTS Records CBS Christmas Special


On Thursday, November 10, you might have thought that Christmas had come early to General Seminary. The smell of evergreen was pervasive as the Chapel was decked out in splendid Christmas decoration, including a Christmas tree. Congregants filled the stalls, dressed in their holiday-best, and the chapel chimes rang out Christmas carols. This was the perfect Christmas setting -- except for the large lamps, lighting, tripods, and cables throughout the Chapel. These decorations were actually for the recording of the CBS Television special, "Christmas in Chelsea Square," to air nationwide on Christmas Eve. This large undertaking is the culmination of months of planning by GTS's Vice President for External Relations, Bruce Parker, '84. With the assistance of the national church's media team, the video recordings will now be edited down for the 58-minute broadcast. We hope you and your family, wherever in the country you are, can join GTS on Christmas Eve at 11:30 p.m. on CBS. If not, there is always the DVR.

CBS Christmas Eve Special

Dear friends, You have all received the press release about the Seminary’s CBS Christmas Eve Special that will be filmed in our Chapel on the evening of November 10.

My hope and expectation is that all students will make every effort to attend this wonderful service of scripture readings and music—all presented by members of our own GTS community. Our chapel will be beautifully decorated and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, will be with us as the preacher. This nationally televised broadcast will be seen by millions of viewers on Christmas Eve so our hope is to have every seat in our Chapel filled. Your singing voice is also very much needed!

Students and Staff Members -- There are only about 114 available seats, excluding the ante-chapel (where no filming will be done). Although we are inviting GTS alumni/ae and friends to attend this filming, we want to be sure the limited number of seats are available to our GTS community. Accordingly, if you have not already done so, please email Bruce Parker ( by Tuesday, November 1, to confirm that you will be attending and how many will be in your party. Also email Bruce if you have any questions about the event. More details appear below.

Faculty members – Faculty seating is already reserved—your usual seat in Chapel. Email Bruce only if you have invited guests.

This should be a wonderful event in our life as a seminary. I hope to see you there. Let’s have a great turnout.

Peter James Lee, Dean


  •  The filming will take place Thursday, 11/10 from 7 to 9 pm, starting promptly at 7pm. Please arrive a little early. (FYI a filming for musicians only is currently planned for the preceding night 11/9.)
  • There will be a short break half way through the filming but we request that everyone who attends will also plan to stay for the entire two hours.
  • The service will be “staged,” meaning the liturgy will be filmed out of sequence (for example, all five scripture readings will likely be filmed back-to-back). There may be “re-takes” now and then. Some things may be rehearsed before they are filmed.
  • There will be lots of congregational singing of familiar and beloved Christmas carols.
  • Please dress as you would for any formal church service on Christmas Eve.
  • By requesting a seat, you understand that your picture may be shown on national television (although not everyone in the congregation will be, of course).
  • Parents may also be asked later to sign releases for their children who appear on-camera (a requirement of CBS).
  • DVDs of the finished program will be made available after Christmas.
  • Volunteers are needed to assist with the service. Email Bruce Parker if you would like to help.


General Seminary to Produce 2011 Christmas Eve Program for CBS-TV

Chapel_Back_150 2
Chapel_Back_150 2

New York City – The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church (GTS) has been selected to produce the 2011 CBS Christmas Eve television special to air nationwide on December 24th at 11:30 pm (EST). Nearly all the network’s affiliated stations carry the annual Christmas program and so viewers are expected to number in the many millions. The 194-year-old seminary is known for the beauty of its Episcopal liturgy and music as well as its idyllic campus located in the Chelsea district of New York City on a square block known as Chelsea Square. The heart of the hour-long program will be a service of lessons and carols from the Seminary’s historic Chapel of the Good Shepherd. During the service members of the Seminary community will offer readings from scripture, interspersed with Christmas carols, choral works, and other musical performances featuring pipe organ and woodwinds. Bishop Catherine S. Roskam, who this year retires as Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of New York and is herself a 1984 graduate of the Seminary, will host the opening of the program. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, will deliver the homily and the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, Dean of the Seminary, will introduce viewers to the Seminary’s mission. In addition to liturgy and music from the Chapel, the special will feature insightful commentary on the scripture readings from members of the Seminary faculty, as well as an interesting segment featuring Christmas carols played on the chimes located in the Seminary’s bell tower. Another segment features excerpts from the beloved poem by Clement Clarke Moore which begins, “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Moore was a professor of biblical languages at the Seminary.

“Although Christmas specials are often worship services held in large congregations, the Seminary, not being a parish church, has taken a different approach,” said Bruce Parker, Senior VP at the Seminary who is heading up the project, assisted by a video team consisting of faculty, students, and staff. Music and scripture will form the central part of the program but will be supplemented with other video segments about aspects of life on Chelsea Square at Christmas time, Parker explained.

On the evening of November 10th from 7-9 pm, a “staged service” will take place in the Seminary’s Chapel during which a large part of the program’s content will be filmed. Beautiful Christmas music will be performed, Christmas carols sung by a congregation comprised of the GTS community and guests, and lessons read from scripture but the service will be interrupted as needed for retakes and repositioning of equipment and lighting. “This Christmas Eve special is a wonderful way to share the beauty of Episcopal worship with a large viewing audience, as well as sharing the mission of the Seminary and the mission of the Episcopal Church,” said Seminary president, the Rev. Lang Lowrey. “We also expect the November 10th filming will be a lot of fun for the congregation.”

An advisory team, convened by Parker, has been at work on the project for several months. Team members include Dr. Patrick Malloy, Professor of Liturgics, who is coordinating the liturgy for the service; Dr. David Hurd, Professor of Church Music, who serves as musical director for the program, as well as Professor of Preaching, Dr. Mitties DeChamplain; GTS Director of Communications, Chad Rancourt; and Director of Admissions, William Webster. As the project gears up to begin filming, students will soon be added to the team. John P. Blessington, who has produced the network’s Christmas specials since the 1980s, serves as Executive Producer for CBS, and President Lang Lowrey is serving as Executive Producer for the Seminary. In addition, Mike Collins, Director of Digital Media for the Episcopal Church’s denominational headquarters, is serving as technical director for the program. “The Seminary is extremely grateful to Mike for the production expertise and services his office is providing to the Seminary both in the shooting and editing of this program,” said Parker. Parker also thanked General graduate, Marion Williams, for bringing this project to GTS through her connections with the CBS Cultural and Religious Broadcasts Unit.

For those who are in church on Christmas Eve and are unable to set their video recorders, the Seminary will be making DVDs of the program available and may stream portions or all of it over their website. Friends of the Seminary are most welcome to attend the November 10th filming although seating is limited. Those wishing to attend should contact Bruce Parker at or 212-243-5150 ext. 285.

The General Theological Seminary, located in the heart of New York City, educates and forms leaders for the church in a changing world. Founded in 1817 as the first theological seminary of the Episcopal Church, General offers certificate and degree programs including the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Theology. The Seminary is also home to the Desmond Tutu Center, a full-service conference center with sixty modern guest rooms.

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Media Contact:

Bruce Parker Senior Vice President The General Theological Seminary 175 Ninth Avenue, New York, NY 10011 (212) 243-5150 x285