A new silver-topped staff donated to the Trinity College Chapel will usher in the annual Christmas Festival of Lessons and Carols this year.

Chapel verge debuts at Lessons and Carols
The new Chapel verge donated by Brendan W. Clark ’21 will debut at the Christmas Festival of Lessons and Carols.

Alumnus Brendan W. Clark ’21 commissioned the ornate verge, which is similar to a mace in appearance and function, to commemorate the College’s Bicentennial and out of fondness for the Chapel.

“In medieval times, it was historically more of a blunt instrument, but a decorative one that could be used in clerical processions to clear a path through the town. The verger usually leads a procession in Anglican ceremonies,” said Clark, who will carry the piece at Trinity’s 64th annual Christmas Festival of Lessons and Carols on Sunday, December 10, at 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Clark and Chapel Curator Christopher D.H. Row ’91 designed the gift, taking inspiration from the College’s existing processional cross and torches. The headpiece was crafted of hallmarked English silver by Ottewill Silversmiths in the United Kingdom, which recently created a verge for the 750th anniversary of Westminster Abbey.

The verge is the latest donation to the Chapel, which has received a number of gifts from alumni, many of which date back to the late 19th- and early 20th-century. Row said, “Brendan’s unflagging support and care for the Chapel has made this significant Bicentennial gift possible. For nearly a century, the Chapel has been without a proper verge; now, thanks to his generosity, that deficiency has been rectified magnificently.”

The Lessons and Carols service is offered to all as a moment of comfort and hope, marking the beginning of the holiday season for the Greater Hartford community. No tickets are required to attend. A freewill offering will be taken to support students in need and international humanitarian relief efforts. The service will involve the reading of nine lessons, each followed by the singing of a carol, recounting the Christmas story.

Christmas Festival of Lessons and Carols
The Christmas Festival of Lessons and Carols at the Trinity College Chapel marks the beginning of the holiday season for the Greater Hartford community.

This special Bicentennial event will feature a newly commissioned work by David Hurd, a setting of a portion of Psalm 96, “Sing to the Lord a New Song,” dedicated to Trinity College Board of Trustees Chair Lisa Bisaccia ’78 and Robert Naparstek, whose generosity has supported the Chapel Music Program. The program also features music by alumni and community composers Paul Lindsley Thomas ’50; Dudley Buck, Class of 1859; Robert Edward Smith, Chapel composer-in-residence since 1979; and Douglas Bruce Johnson, professor of music, emeritus.

The Bicentennial Lessons and Carols performers and participants include: The Chapel Singers; The Trinity College Gospel Choir; college carillonist Ellen Dickinson; organists Vaughn Mauren ’07, Madison Thompson ’25, and Chris Yi ’26; Christopher Houlihan ’09, John Rose College Organist-and-Directorship Distinguished Chair of Chapel Music and artist-in-residence; the Rev. Marcus George Halley, college chaplain and dean of spiritual and religious life; and the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey W. Mello, bishop.

Brendan W. Clark ’21
Brendan W. Clark ’21 served as the Chapel’s verger at past Lessons and Carols services and at Easter services, carrying a simple staff.

The donation of the verge has a special significance for Clark, who held the role of sacristan at the Chapel during his time as an undergraduate at Trinity. In that position, he was responsible for maintaining the Chapel’s ceremonial appointments and generally keeping the Chapel in order. He previously was the Chapel’s verger at past Lessons and Carols services and at Easter services. “The role as verger at Trinity’s celebrations is to shepherd individuals through the service, like when readers come up to read the lesson, as a quasi-master of ceremonies,” Clark said.

Clark, who is from West Barnstable, Massachusetts, and is now studying at William & Mary Law School, was looking for a community when he first came to Trinity and found one at the Chapel.

“I attended my first Episcopal service and sort of fell in love with the faith tradition,” he said. “I became a faithful adherent at Trinity, and the Rev. Allison Read, then the college chaplain, helped to sponsor my confirmation into the Episcopal Church. I’ve maintained that part of my Trinity experience to the present day.”

While double-majoring in public policy and law and history, and minoring in religious studies, Clark was active on campus as editor-in-chief of The Trinity Tripod student newspaper, an undergraduate fellow at the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, a member of the Student Government Association, and president of the Pre-Law Society. Since graduating, he has stayed involved with Trinity as a class agent and class secretary, and as a member of the Trinity Alumni Association, a Bicentennial working group, The Long Walk Societies, and The Elms Society. He also is part of the recently revived Friends of the Chapel Board.

As an alumnus, Clark continues to feel a strong connection to Trinity and is proud to be part of its legacy through this gift. “I felt as a Trinity student that I was part of this institution,” he said. “To see—both as a student and now as an alumnus—the incredible power of philanthropy really drove me to pursue that as soon as I could. I’m a small part of something much more significant by contributing to the history of the institution.”

He was inspired to pursue the gift by the philanthropy of the Class of 1963—alumni who were recognized with the recent dedication of the Class of 1963 Chapel of the Perfect Friendship. “Their gift and their willingness to support has encouraged me to pursue, in a smaller way, a similar path,” said Clark.

“No alum should let their age or relative newness to the alumni community stand as an impediment to getting engaged,” Clark added. “There are real opportunities to give back through gifts small and large, and through the act of volunteering. I think it’s really important that young alumni be recognized and encouraged as the next generation to bear the responsibility to move Trinity forward.”

See photos from this year’s Christmas Festival of Lessons and Carols here.