Closing Sacred Song to focus on moments of farewell, tradition

Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill closes the 2022 Chautauqua Assembly Season with this closing Three Taps of the Gavel address.

Mary Lee Talbot
Staff writer

Rebecca Richmond, a Chautauqua writer and one of the founders of the Sandwich Poets at Chautauqua — a precursor to the literary arts program of today — in her 1944 poem “To Chautauqua – Moment of Farewell,” wrote: “Sometimes I wish that I would love you less, For when the summer ends and I must go, Almost it is a rending of the soul – You are part of me and I of you.”

It is that love of Chautauqua that feeds many people during the winter and fuels the excitement of arriving on the grounds as the season begins. The Chautauqua Assembly begins and ends with tradition. The Sunday evening Sacred Song service is part of the tradition. 

At 8 p.m. Sunday, the final Sacred Song Service will be held in the Amphitheater. The Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, senior pastor for Chautauqua, will preside. Melissa Spas, vice president for religion, will be the reader. 

The Chautauqua Choir will sing under the direction of Joshua Stafford, director of sacred music and Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist, accompanied by Nicholas Stigall, organ scholar. Stafford creates each Sacred Song Service during the summer season.

Like the first Sacred Song of the season, the Sunday service will be based on the 1903 Chautauqua Hymnal and Liturgy. A prayer by Thomas A. Kempis will be read as a litany. A statement by Lewis Miller, co-founder of Chautauqua from the introduction to John Heyl Vincent’s book The Chautauqua Movement reminded readers that Chautauqua was founded to be all-denominational and universal as to creeds. A prayer from Jacosben, former Chautauqua organist, gives thanks for this place and extends a wish that all will return again.

The music in the service, from the opening “Day is Dying in the West,” to closing “Now the Day is Over,” and “Largo,” will also include the hymn “Break Thou the Bread of Life,” written by William F. Sherwin and Mary Lathbury for Chautauqua in 1877.

Immediately after “Largo,” Michael E. Hill, president of Chautauqua Institution, will give the Three Taps of the Gavel address to close the 150th season of Chautauqua.


The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the recap of the morning worship service. A life-long Chautauquan, she is a Presbyterian minister, author of Chautauqua’s Heart: 100 Years of Beauty and a history of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. She edited The Streets Where We Live and Shalom Chautauqua. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her Stabyhoun, Sammi.