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St. Peter’s Church, Bermuda, marks 400 years

ST. GEORGE’S, Bermuda — It is not the most famous Christmas Eve midnight service. That occurs in another St. Peter’s. Still, the traditional Service of Lessons and Carols held in St. Peter’s Church here is uniquely evocative. In a winter ritual passed down through the centuries, dozens of candelabras are lighted, setting the interior’s warm, toffee-colored Bermuda cedar aglow.

St. Peter’s, which is reputed to be the oldest Anglican church in continual use outside the British Isles, marks its 400th anniversary this year and, coincidentally, it received a nice birthday present. In March, the candles were lighted for a special Service of Intituling, when a royal decree from Queen Elizabeth II redesignated St. Peter’s as “Their Majesties Chappell,” a status first bestowed in 1697 by King William III. Somehow, over the centuries, the designation was lost. But then St. Peter’s has undergone many changes since the crew from the shipwrecked Sea Venture held the island’s first Christmas Eve service in a rudimentary church near the site in 1609.

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