Annual Events

Each year, there are several large services or celebrations held in the Chapel and sponsored or co-sponsored by the Chaplains' Office. This page contains information on some such events.

Christmas in Christ Chapel

Christmas in Christ Chapel 2013At the beginning of December, in the season of Advent, the Gustavus community prepares for Christmas by worshipping together in the annual Christmas in Christ Chapel program. Alumni, friends of the college, students, staff, and faculty gather at one of five performances held during one winter weekend. About 1200 people attend each service.

Christmas in Christ Chapel is the joint effort of the Chaplains' Office, the Music Department, and the Office of College Relations. Every year, a theme is chosen to both facilitate worship and teach participants something new about faith, culture, and the world. About 350 students, faculty, and staff bring the programs to life through choral, orchestral, brass, handbell, and organ music, dance, spoken word, and prayer.

The most recent themes carried throughout the Christmas in Christ Chapel services have been Holy Wisdom, Holy Word: The Gates of Eden are Open (2013), Jubilee: Proclaiming the Year of the Lord's Favor (2012), Julljus - Light from the Old World, Light to the New (2011), A Renaissance Nativity (2010), A Liturgy of Letters and Carols (2009), Joyeux Noël (2008), The Word Becomes Flesh (2007), An American Odyssey (2006), Ageless Visions of a Timeless Moment (2005), Seasons of Promise (2004), Some Children See Him (2003), Julbön Christmas Prayer (2002), A Celtic Pilgrimage (2001), and Heaven and Nature Sing (2000).

Tickets for Christmas in Christ Chapel may be reserved at

Festival of Saint Lucia

St. Lucia 2013Since 1941, the Gustavus community has celebrated the Swedish festival of St. Lucia, which honors a martyred saint, by choosing five sophomore women to be part of the Lucia Court. These women are selected by their peers based on the qualities represented in Lucia herself - leadership, service to others, charity, kindness, and thoughtfulness. Sophomores are chosen because they are the age Lucia was when she died for her faith - 20 years.

The festival, customarily celebrated in Sweden on Dec. 13, originated as a family celebration. The oldest daughter in each household takes on the role of St. Lucia, waking early and preparing breakfast for her family, then singing them awake with carols. Wearing a crown of lighted candles, Lucia represents the return of light that ends the long winter nights and serves as a symbol of hope and peace for the Christmas season.

The annual celebration at Gustavus is sponsored by the Gustavus Library Associates with support from the Office of College Relations, the Chaplains' Office, and the Guild of St. Lucia. The Guild was created at a time in history when women were not allowed into other honor societies. It is a prestigious group of women leaders at Gustavus, recognized for their academic and community leadership.

The festival begins at about 5 a.m. when St. Lucia and her court go caroling through the campus residence halls. There is a special worship service at 10 a.m. in Christ Chapel to crown Lucia for the new year, and to hear a homily by the reigning Lucia from the outgoing year.

The homily grows out of the legend of St. Lucia, which tells of a young Sicilian noble maiden whose mother was very ill. Lucia prayed that her mother would be healed, and through the young woman's faith, the miracle came to pass. Lucia shared her faith with her healed mother, who was moved to allow her daughter to sell her possessions, give the money to the poor, and devote her life to God. Lucia was betrothed, however, and her fiance became enraged. He reported her to the governor Pascasius for being a Christian, which was against the laws of the emperor. She was arrested and brought before Pascasius, who tried to force her to renounce her Christian beliefs. She stood firm, and answered his threats with the certainty of one who knows God's love and fears no corrupt earthly power. He therefore sought to humiliate her by sentencing her to be handed over to a brothel, but she could not be moved from the place where she stood, as though she were rooted to the spot. He next ordered that she be set on fire and burned to death, but she prayed in the midst of the bonfire, and the flames did not hurt her. Finally, he had her killed by cutting her throat with a sword.

Lucia's acts on behalf of the poor did not end with her death, however. In life, she had carried food and supplies to the poor and outcast who lived exiled in countryside caves. Often, with her arms full of offerings for these people, she had to strap torches to her head so she could light her way through the darkness to find those who needed her. After her death, she frequently appeared robed in white and wearing a wreath of candles on her head, continuing to bring help to those in need. Legend has it that she appeared in Sweden during a time of great famine, standing bathed in light at the bow of a ship loaded with food and supplies, to end the hunger and pain of the Swedish people.

Gustavus' Festival of St. Lucia is open and free to the public. Tickets are, however, required for the traditional Swedish smorgasbord that follows the festival; seating is limited. Reservations for the luncheon can be made at


MAYDAY! Peace Conference

The annual MAYDAY! Peace Conference was established at Gustavus in 1981. It was founded and is sustained by the generosity of Florence and the late Raymond Sponberg of North Mankato, MN.

The Conference occurs on the last Wednesday in April or the first Wednesday in May each year. Classes are suspended or shortened so that students and faculty may attend the 10 a.m. opening convocation and keynote in the Chapel, the afternoon keynote and workshops, and the closing reception. The MAYDAY! Peace Conference is open to the public, and no fees or reservations are required to attend.

Past conference themes include:

  • The War Within: Can the Soldier Be at Peace? (2015)
  • Tibet: Finding Hope in Exile (2014)
  • Decision: Roe v Wade (2013)
  • Multi Cultural Sweden (2012)
  • Executing Justice—Debating Capital Punishment (2011)
  • Imagining Peace (2010)
  • Tiananmen +20 Years (2009)
  • Troubled Water (2008)
  • Community Food Security (2007)
  • AIDS + AFRICA: The Unfolding Crisis (2006)
  • Energy for Peace (2005)
  • The United Nations at the Crossroads (2004)
  • World Religions: Waging War or Promoting Peace (2003)
  • Sanctions and Beyond: What is the Human Price? (2002)
  • Revisiting the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux after 150 Years (2001)
  • Vietnam: 25 Years On (2000)
  • Toward a World Ban on Landmines (1999)
  • Immigration and Social Justice (1998)
  • The Family and Public Policy (1997)
  • Land Rights, Land Use, and Social Justice (1996)
  • The Challenge of Building a Non-Violent Global Community (1995)
  • Building Community from the Inside Out (1994)
  • Overcoming Violence in Our Lives (1993)
  • Food for a Peaceable World (1992)
  • U.S. Policy in the Middle East: What Roads to Peace? (1991)
  • Making Peace with the Earth (1990)
  • Other Voices„Global Perspectives on the Arms Race (1989)
  • Building on Hope: Working for Peace (1988)
  • Wages of War, Profits of Peace (1987)
  • Schooling for Peace (1986)
  • To Negotiate a Peace (1985)
  • Making Peace in a War-Keeping World (1984)
  • Seeing through and beyond the Mushroom Cloud (1983)
  • The Response of Faith to the Nuclear Dilemma (1982)
  • Arms Control-MAYDAY! MAYDAY! (1981)