Hendrix College’s Candlelight Carol Services Dec. 1-4, 15-16; Tour Takes Choir to West Tennessee and Little Rock
Free reservations now open; Dec. 2 and 3 performances will be streamed live from Greene Chapel

CONWAY, Arkansas (November 21, 2022) – For nearly 60 years, the Hendrix College Choir’s Candlelight Carol Service has marked the start of the holiday season for many in Arkansas and the broader Hendrix community. The 2022 Candlelight Carol Services continue this beloved tradition while also introducing new music to those who attend. Services in Greene Chapel on the Hendrix College campus will take place Dec. 1-3 at 7:30 p.m., and Dec. 4 at 4 p.m. While there is no admission charge, limited seating makes reservations required for the on-campus services; seats may be reserved online at www.hendrix.edu/candlelight.

This year, the choir will make tour stops Dec. 15 at Germantown United Methodist Church of Germantown, Tennessee; and Dec. 16 at Asbury United Methodist Church of Little Rock. Both tour services begin at 7:30 p.m. and do not require reservations.

In-person attendance is not the only option for those wishing to experience the Candlelight Carol Service. The service will be streamed live from Greene Chapel at www.hendrix.edu/candlelight on Friday, Dec. 2 and Saturday, Dec. 3.

The Candlelight Carol Service at Hendrix shares many features with the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols celebrated each Christmas Eve since 1918 at King’s College in Cambridge, England. The nine lessons, taken from Old and New Testaments, weave a narrative from Adam’s fall into sin, through the prophecies of Christ’s coming, and culminating in Christ’s birth. The carols performed between the lessons change yearly, and offer opportunities for reflection, exultation, and celebration. A vibrant tradition, the Candlelight Carol Service includes music that spans several centuries and also features many living composers. This year’s service features a world premiere piece by Jerry Hui: As I Sat on a Sunny Bank, a cheerful arrangement of a lesser-known British carol.

About Hendrix College
A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit www.hendrix.edu.

Bread Breaking Guild

Bread Breaking Guild

Colleen Holt

Conway First UMC communicator

Out of a Communion quandary has come a tasty new ministry at Conway First United Methodist Church: a Bread Baking Guild.

When the church’s traditional Communion bread — a large loaf of Hawaiian bread — became unavailable during the Covid pandemic, things became more labor intensive for the Altar Guild members, who began cutting individual Hawaiian rolls into cubes to use during intinction. Another issue was the absence of a great alternative for the celebrant loaf to be broken during Communion.

Once the church primarily opened up after the pandemic, staff and laity began looking for alternate bread sources. Sourdough loaves were too crumbly and too hard. Pastors had difficulty breaking pieces of bread, such as large French loaves, which would break off into pieces that were too difficult to handle by those receiving the meal.

Left with this big Communion question mark, the church’s director of music and worship ministries, Jason Saugey, began an epic search for the perfect bread. He started his search close to home — at his member church of St. Margaret’s Episcopal in Little Rock.

During a call with Rev. Mary Vano, rector at St. Margaret’s, Jason learned that the parish had also been on a search for the best Communion bread and how to deliver the elements, especially considering Covid restrictions. Communion is served each Sunday in the Episcopal church, and bread is in very high demand. Their solution? Bake Communion bread each Friday using a specific recipe that can create a loaf easily usable by the celebrants, that holds up well to the liquid part of the Communion offering, and also provides enough bread for all to partake.

Jason was able to get a copy of this well-thought-out recipe and began doing some dry runs at home. Each loaf is about six inches in diameter. “The recipe makes three hot cross buns that are ready to break. Each loaf breaks naturally into four quadrants. With the first loaf, we sampled it at home. We broke it, we scored it in a cross on top,” he said.

The recipe includes whole wheat and white bread flour, along with sweeteners of honey and molasses. “The honey and molasses seem to make the bread more dense,” said Jason. “With this type of dense bread, you can better control portion size.”

The next part of Jason’s testing included the pastors at Conway First UMC — pastor couple Revs. Michael and Dede Roberts. “I gave them the second loaf I made. I told them to do with it all they would do at church. Break it. Dip it. Notice that there are practically no crumbs with it.”

The third loaf was put to the test to determine how much in advance the bread could be prepared. What Jason found is that the loaf does not stand up to being placed in a cool refrigerator or freezing. “The honey and molasses become really, really dense when frozen. It’s not as pliable.” Since the bread can stay fresh for quite awhile without refrigeration, he has recommended that the bakers prepare the bread on Friday or Saturday, put it in foil and a storage bag, and bring it to the church on Sunday morning.

Each Communion Sunday, three bakers make one batch — three loaves — of bread. On Sunday morning, they arrive at church around 8 a.m. and take two loaves to the Sanctuary for the two services held in that venue and one loaf to the Great Hall for the Good News Celebration. In addition to having a great loaf of bread, Jason sees this ministry as being a unifier that sees all three very different worship services sharing a common meal. “This plan has worked really well,” he says.

During the search for the perfect loaf of bread, some of the “mathematical, scientific minds” in the Conway FUMC Altar Guilds were skeptical of how many people each loaf could serve. The goal was for each loaf to serve about 100 people.

In September, Jason gathered these “skeptics” for a training session. “I brought all the baking supplies and my mixer to the church. The members helped devise the procedures. And, we kept all of this amongst ourselves as we put this together.”

Once the dough was put together, it was about the size of a pomelo, which is a large citrus fruit considered to be an ancestor of the grapefruit. After rising for an hour, the dough had about doubled. It was then divided into three balls and set to rise for 10 more minutes. It did rise a bit more and was then baked and cooled.

Now the testing came to a crucial point: breaking the bread. Jason said the loaves easily broke into quarters, and each quarter was broken into pieces, getting 25 pieces out of each quarter. The control group included six or seven Altar Guild members who closely watched the breaking to make sure the piece sizes were consistent.

“This bread is exactly the right bread for the way we do Communion with intinction,” Jason said. “We were all bolstered with that outcome.”

The last three months of 2022 were assigned to teams for baking. Jason manages the ingredients, preparing a kit that includes the dry ingredients of both flours, instant yeast, and salt. This reduces their measuring to just the liquids. The bakers can come to the church at the end of each week to get their baking kit, and he has also passed along some of the liquid ingredients such as olive oil and molasses. 

The first real test was Communion on October 2. The loaves were delivered by the bakers, prepared for serving, and used at worship. “It was a complete success,” Jason said. The only batches of bread not used? The two that Jason made “just to have in case,” he said, laughingly.

The Bread Baking Guild has now been opened to bakers throughout the church community, and another training will be held soon. Jason encourages people of all baking experiences to contribute to this ministry, which he calls “a special parish-wide ministerial endeavor.”

“We are furthering that unity we feel at Conway First UMC. Ministries such as this strengthen the entire parish as a whole. We want to include everybody in such unifying elements.”

Q&A with Cathy Blackwood, outgoing Arkansas Conference United Women in Faith President

Amy: The Arkansas Conference Women in Faith Annual meeting was a wonderful success! Please tell me how you feel about leaving the position of president for the Arkansas Conference United Women in Faith. You have navigated a lot of change.

Cathy: One thing I can say about my four-year tenure as president, there was never a dull moment. We started 2019 celebrating 150 years of United Methodist Women and, in 2022, have been celebrating our rebranding this year as United Women in Faith. Between these bookends, we learned how to keep our sisterhood together through two years of a pandemic. Learning how to hold Zoom meetings and getting creative with how to gather together in person and yet keep each other safe were significant milestones.

The great leadership team I worked with over the past four years helped make many things happen during 2020 and 2021. I was so impressed that our mission coordinators offered Zoom gatherings for spiritual growth and how the School to Prison Pipeline ministry project affects students here in Arkansas. Also, the Mission u planning team was able to offer a hybrid Mission u at Hendrix College in 2021 and go to a full gathering of Mission u on campus this year. Many other conferences were still only offering Zoom meetings for Mission u, and we were able to work together and offer more ways to gather.

Amy: Tell me how you became involved with United Women in Faith.

Cathy: I was a young mom with a two-year-old and was invited to a Hannah Circle meeting. They met in the evening to accommodate younger, working women, and I was interested in connecting with the women in my church (Pocahontas First UMC). Through that group of women, I started learning what United Methodist Women’s mission was – ministries with women and children. I liked that we were supporting women around the world with the ministries that were being funded through UMW.

Amy: That is exactly how I got involved with UMW. I had a toddler, and I needed an evening meeting time. I was also craving more connection with other women in my church. These women became my sisters through Christ. What is your favorite mission of the Arkansas Women in Faith?

Cathy: I think we have two great ones. Our sponsorship of Mission u is a great way to bring the whole conference together, laity, clergy, women, and men, young and old. It’s an event that can help feed us spiritually and to look beyond our backyards. I love that Mission u allows us to bring what we’ve learned to our local churches.

The cooperative event (UWFaith, AR Conference Board of Global Ministries, and Methodist Foundation for Arkansas) helps involve more people in our Conference to learn about the social justice issues affecting those with no voice. Our Conference MIWATCH ministry (Ministry to Incarcerated Women and Their Children) is one ministry that people have only heard a little about since Covid shut things down. We help women who are in prison have visits with their children. Our coordinator, Helen Emerson, stays in touch with the prisons to find out what ways we can keep mothers and their children connected.

Amy:  You’ve led so well, Cathy. We are all so grateful for your service of time, passion, and grace, and it has been a challenging time navigating Covid. Do you have any last words to share?

Cathy: The great leadership team I worked with over the past four years helped make many things happen during 2020 and 2021. I was so impressed that our mission coordinators offered Zoom gatherings for spiritual growth and how the School to Prison Pipeline ministry project positively affects students here in Arkansas. Also, the Mission u planning team was able to offer a hybrid Mission u at Hendrix College in 2021 and then go to a complete in-person gathering of Mission u on campus this year. Many other conferences were still only offering Zoom meetings for Mission u, and we were able to work together and provide more ways to gather.

I look forward to seeing what the Leadership Team plans and implements for our United Women in Faith sisterhood in 2023.

 

Learn more about the Arkansas Conference Women in Faith

An Advent Prayer by Barbara Jones

An Advent Prayer by Barbara Jones

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:15-20

 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

We accept this Advent Season as one of hope and promise.

May our faith remain grounded in Him who created all things in Heaven and on Earth.

Let our focus be on our great and wonderful savior, Jesus Christ, knowing while the world is ever changing the God we serve is ever the same.

Amen.

Prayer by Barbara Jones, Southwest District Lay Leader

An Advent Prayer by Barbara Jones

An Advent Prayer by Kathy Conley

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

 

Prayer:

Our most gracious, Holy God, we yearn for a Savior. We seek the One who is like us but has remained pure in your eyes and so we continue to wait to be made whole in perfection. We look with boldness toward our own mortality and the day all answers are known and our understanding is sure. We live in that assurance as we journey to the manger and see Your Son, a helpless baby, as we are helpless, yet holding our very souls in His hands for all eternity. 

Thank you, God, for loving us so much, for continuing to pour Your kindness, joy, peace, grace and love into us so that we can pour it on others. We pray in the great glory that is You, in the name of our Savior and our Lord, Jesus. Amen.   

 

Prayer by Kathy Conley, Conference Lay Leader