Posted Online: Dec. 06, 2013, 4:40 am

Celebrate Christmas joys in Andover again

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By Claudia Loucks,

Photo: Claudia Loucks/correspondent
The Rev. Richard Priggie, Augustana College chaplain, helps plan the annual Joy of Christmas Past and Present service in Andover. The Rev. Jan Veseth, pastor at Augustana Lutheran Church in Andover, also helps organize the service.
ANDOVER -- Past and present Christmas joys keep getting celebrated over "and over" in Andover.

This year's 45th annual Joy of Christmas service will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11, at Augustana Lutheran Church.

Students from Augustana College in Rock Islajnd will join Andover residents and visitors for "the most charming Christmas service ever," organizers and past participants say.

The service will begin at what's called the "big church." Augustana Lutheran is at 628 6th St, Andover.

College students will read the Christmas story in three different languages.

Special music will be provided by the college's Kammarkor Choir, directed by Dr. Michael Zemek. Augustana's Horn Ensemble, directed by Lee Kessinger, also will perform, with organist Larry Peterson, campus ministries director. Featured trombonists will be Amy Bandman, a senior from Waukegan; assistant professor Dr. Samantha Keehn; Rachel Auton, a sophomore from Des Plaines; and Thomas Knowles, a junior from Lindenhurst.

The Rev. Mark Anderson, student life associate dean, will share a message about the "true meaning of Christmas."

After services, worshipers will walk to the smaller Jenny Lind Chapel, which will be lit by candlelight, for communion and caroling. The Jenny Lind Chapel will have an unadorned Christmas tree, like one that was first used in the 1850s.

After the communion and caroling portion, activities will return to Augustana Lutheran Church, where refreshments will be served in Luther Hall.

The annual service was originated in 1970 by the Rev. Richard Swanson, college campus church pastor, according to Ron Peterson, a life-long Andover church member and Jenny Lind Chapel board member.

"This special worship event celebrates the historic links between the two Augustanas for 153 years," Mr. Peterson said. "Augustana Church was organized in 1850, and Augustana College was founded in 1860, both by the Rev. Lars Paul Esbjorn."

Rev. Esbjorn's son, Joseph Esbjorn, served as Andover church's organist and school teacher, before he began directing a Messiah chorus in 1880, involving Moline, Rock Island and Andover choirs. The Messiah chorus first performed in June 1880, Mr. Peterson said.

"At a synod convention held in 1873 in Andover, it was decided to move Augustana College and Theological Seminary from Paxton, Ill., to Rock Island," he said.

The Jenny Lind Chapel was built in the early 1850s, and is the "Mother Church" of the former Augustana Lutheran Church in America and founding site of the Norwegian-Danish Church in America in 1870, according to Mr. Peterson.

"It also is the birthplace of the Norwegian-Danish Lutheran Church in the United States," he said. "Scores of visitors from many different states and countries visit the chapel and Immigrant Museum, located in the lower level of the chapel, every year."

The chapel, just west of the church, also hosts many special events, including services in Swedish and English, Sunday evening vespers in the summer months, and several Christmas celebrations in December.

People have sung praises to ''Generous Jenny'' for more than 160 years, Mr. Peterson said. Famous 19th century Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind got everything started by donating $1,500, he said.

After her contribution, parishioners started building a church, but faced numerous setbacks and struggles, including a cholera epidemic, Mr. Peterson said.

The chapel was completed in 1854, with a plain and prosaic form, but no hint of ''churchly architecture,'' he said. ''The church, without a steeple and a bell, attracted thousands of Swedish immigrants to Andover.''

It's listed in the National Register of Historical Places, he said, "and has been a treasure to our community."