Silver Bay, YWCA, 1928

“On that last evening we gathered, all of us in white, in the big auditorium. The lights were dim, the great crowd hushed. The words of a ritual composed for the occasion were spoken, but they seemed strangely insufficient to conclude all the hopeful earnestness of those ten days. Strangely thin under the shadowy roof, beneath the high black summer sky — wistful rather than assured — sounded the chorus of the Silver Bay Prize Song of 1923 — ‘New lamps for old.’

“When the building had been completely darkened, came the ceremony of the candle lighting. Beginning at the front, each one present lighted the candle of the person on her right, until all of us stood there in the dark, holding high a silvery taper. Then, marching, we passed down the aisles and out into the night, where an immense ring of shadowy white was formed, outlined by tiny candle points. And up into the black immensity over our heads floated the words of that other Silver Bay hymn — beginning ‘And we who would serve the King.’

“As the last notes died, the circle broke, and all still holding the burning tapers. stuck in a bit of paper, carried them to the dark lake-edge and set them afloat. It was amazing how far those little individual candles went, how high and convincing them loomed out of the darkness! It was hours before the last brave adventurer of them bobbed out, lost in the brooding shadow of overhanging mountains.”

— From “God in the Girls’ College” by Winifred Kirkland in The Century Magazine, November 1928

And so we trace the origins of the closing night’s candle ceremony back to the YWCA. The lyrics for “New Lamps for Old” can be found here, and the story of “that other Silver Bay hymn” Kirkland cites, which is “Follow the Gleam,” here.


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