​Greening of the Chapel a Foliage Festival

by Kevin Cummings Messenger Staff Writer
Sewanee yard clippings, skilled decorating wizardry, and willing hands and hearts are parts of the formula that make the annual Greening of All Saints’ Chapel possible.
The greening is a tradition that always precedes the Festival of Lessons and Carols, which will mark its 57th year on Dec. 3 and 4.
“Of course people come to Lessons and Carols for the music, but they come to see it and smell it and feel it too,” said Ken Taylor, the greening’s chief organizer. “It’s a big thing and a lot of folks have said that it’s what starts their Christmas holidays, coming to Lessons and Carols.”
All three performances of the event itself are sold out, but organizers will conduct tours of the chapel and its decorations on the Saturday and Sunday afternoon prior to Lessons and Carols. The times will be announced, Taylor said.
Volunteers deck out the church on the Friday before the University Choir’s performance—this year the greening is Dec. 2. People will start looking for items in the fall, Taylor noted, like dried hydrangea blooms, seed pods and nandina berries to contribute to the chapel accoutrements. Folks will add magnolia, pine clippings, laurel, holly, hemlock and other evergreen trimmings.
These decorations are dappled about and entwined into wreaths and garlands to adorn windows, altars, lecterns, rails and other parts of the church, including two wreaths each for the 14 sets of doors, Taylor said.
“We try to come up with something different every year. The whole year I’m thinking about ways we can change it up a little,” he said.
Taylor’s Mercantile adds poinsettias and the University of the South’s Forestry Department hauls in an additional two trailer loads of greenery.
The University’s Greek organizations decorate the pillars in the church and other volunteers do the rest. The festivities also include an Advent wreath for the large steel ring that sits overhead.
Another part of the greening is teams of people creating gold-colored roses from ginkgo leaves found on campus. Marcia Mary Cook, a retired theatre professor and former dorm matron, has been heavily involved in the flower guild at All Saints’ since the mid-1990s.
Cook said she’s worried about the Ginkgo leaves, which hadn’t fallen last week and were just barely turning gold because of the drought. But there’s still time before the greening.
“If we get some rain and wind, everything will come down,” Cook said.
The flower guild, which is part of St. Augustine’s Guild at All Saints’, plays a big role in the greening. A number of the small group of mostly women are former dorm matrons, Taylor said.
The greening starts at 9 a.m. and last year, because about 80 volunteers participated, the decorating was complete by 2 p.m.—about two hours faster than normal, Taylor said.
“I love doing it and I love that the community is involved,” he said. “Members of flower guilds as far as Mobile, Ala., have come to help and learn how to do it at their church.”
Volunteers for the Greening of the Chapel are asked to arrive at 9 a.m. on Dec. 2. A light lunch will be served.

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