Hanging of the Green adapts for 2020, recalls 1918.
“We’ve never done it this way before,” says Associate Pastor Doug Haney of this year’s Hanging of the Green.
It should be no surprise that the 2020 version of the beloved service — a traditional kickoff to the Christmas season for many Wilshire members — will be unlike any to come before. After all, it will be an online-only event. As always, however, it represents the culmination of untold hours of work by Wilshire’s music groups and other volunteers. Haney calls it “a community effort for the community of faith.”
Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, Haney says scrapping the event was never considered. “Instead of focusing on what we couldn’t do,” he says, “it was just sort of ‘what can we do?’”
The service, which premieres on YouTube Sunday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m., will include Wilshire’s music groups performing in virtual videos or socially distanced and outdoors. Participating are Wilshire Winds, Shekinah, Nova, a K-through-6th-grade children’s choir, Carillon Ringers and Sanctuary Choir. Youth Choir members will join the other choral groups for the finale.
A series of dramatic vignettes written by Wilshire member Jeff Hampton will be interspersed through the service. The scenes depict life in Dallas during the Spanish Flu of 1918.
“I was looking for something that might fit this season and our theme, Hopes & Fears.” Haney says. “How do you both speak to the hope and courage we have as Christians and also acknowledge the reality of 2020?”
Hampton, with help from his wife, LeAnn, researched how the Spanish Flu impacted the daily lives of Dallasites between September and December, 1918. He says “It showed that a lot of the uncertainty we have now — ‘Are masks the answer?’ ‘Should we all just get out and be ourselves?’ — those were the same issues back then.”
The overriding message, Hampton says, is that “then, as now, our faith got us through.”
The brief scenes were acted by church members with direction from veteran drama teacher Nancy Poynter. Haney says “it was a classic Wilshire move, having someone write something for the occasion. I hope it will speak to people.”
Hanging of the Green is always a huge logistical undertaking, but 2020 posed new challenges. Some ensembles had experience making virtual performance videos but creating several at once meant spreading the work among a team of video editors. Along with David Hammons, Wilshire’s regular videographer, editors contributing to the program include Wilshire member Jim Tapley, Wilshire Winds trombonist Daniel McAnallen and Mike Korson, Jr., son of Wilshire’s Mike and Teri Korson.
Along with the musical pieces and dramatic vignettes, there will be two “congregational carols” led by a small group of Sanctuary Choir singers with the hope that viewers will sing along from home. A video montage of members decorating their own homes will be accompanied by a Jeff Brummel organ performance.
Haney says, “The investment of time on the part of musicians, staff and video editors is really pretty remarkable. It has been a team effort par excellence.”
How to watch
Hanging of the Green premieres on Wilshire’s YouTube channel (youtube.com/wilshirebaptist) at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 6, and can be viewed then or anytime after. The direct link will be shared on social media. Even without the link, it should be easy to find on our YouTube channel.