MARINETTE — St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 917 Church St., will hold its annual service of Lessons and Carols Sunday at 5 p.m.  

“It’s an observance in anticipation of Christmas. It allows us to slow down to appreciate the season,” said James Martell, organist and choirmaster since the first service of Lessons and Carols, and the Rev. Glenn Kanestrom, current rector.

The first service of Lessons and Carols was held at St. Paul’s Dec. 10, 1989. At that time, the Rev. William Bippus was rector and Martell served as both organist and choirmaster, which Martell continues. Throughout the years, participants and attendees have come from all faiths for this introduction to the Advent season.

A program from that first service of 1989 described the four-week season of Advent, leading up to Christmas, as one of preparation and explained the appearance inside the church. The cover of that year’s program stated, “Christmas decorations have not yet appeared, flowers are replaced by simple evergreens, and the altar is adorned with the purple of royalty. Through Scripture and music, this service of Lessons and Carols is intended to reflect the nature of Advent.”

This year’s program will include: After the Prelude (Palestrina/Cleobury); Veni Redemptor Genitum (Praetorius/Willcocks); Hark a Thrilling Voice; After the Bidding Prayer-People Look East (Eleanor Farjean); Adam Lay Ybounden (Frank Ferko); “Twas in the Year that King Uzziah Died (G.R.W.); Wie Schon Leuchtet; My Dancing Day (Arr. Richard Lloyd); Angelus Ad Virginem (Arr. David Willcocks); The Angel Gabriel, O Bethlehem (Basque Carol); In the Bleak Midwinter and Lo! He Comes.

Kanestrom, said he’s seldom sung with a better choir. He described the service as “one of celebrating something wonderful and profound about our Anglican heritage.” He added, “Lessons and Carols has a long tradition dating back to the very first Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Kings College, Cambridge, held on Christmas Eve in 1918.”

“The traditional service you’ll hear on Christmas morning on Wisconsin Public Radio begins with ‘Once in Royal David’s City,’ but we always have begun with ‘Come Thou Redeemer of the Earth’ sung by a solo voice as the choir processes down the aisle with their candles in the darkened church,” said Mary Nemetz, who helps Martell with the choir and is a local retired music instructor. “All of us in the choir look forward to this service every year and we all find it so moving. As I was reflecting on this year’s hymns I was kind of tearing up because I remembered how it feels to sing that as we processed out. It always amazes me that this service takes on a life of its own.”

The refreshment committee will serve warm appetizers and warm holiday drinks. There will also be a hot cocoa bar with all the fixings. The proposed menu includes cocktail meatballs, pigs in a blanket, vegetable trays and holiday cookies.

“We invite everyone in the community to attend,” Kanestrom said. “Our doors are open to all.”