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Press for "A Bold New Love" on CBS, December 24, 2018

New York Times

What’s on TV Monday: ‘Elf’ and ‘A Bold New Love’

By Sara Aridi, Dec. 24, 2018

Celebrate Christmas Eve with an endearing comedy about a very tall, very happy elf. Or watch a holiday special by the Middle Collegiate Church.

A BOLD NEW LOVE: A CHRISTMAS EVE WITH MIDDLE COLLEGIATE CHURCH (2018) 11:35 p.m. on CBS. This one-hour holiday special has something for everyone: gospel, classical music, dance and spoken word. A production of the Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village of Manhattan, the performances feature conducting by Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) and songs from the movies “Sister Act 2” and “Selma.”



'Love. Period.': An Interview With Middle Collegiate Church's Rev. Jacqui Lewis

by Court Stroud, December 19, 2018

On Monday, December 24th, the CBS Television Network will broadcast A Bold New Love: A Christmas Eve with Middle Collegiate Church. The holiday special airs from 11:35 p.m. to 12:35 a.m. ET/PT and features four choirs, two dance companies and a spoken-word artist.

Emmy-nominee Tituss Burgess ("Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt") conducts a guest chorus singing two of his compositions. Middle Church’s three choirs join in the festivities, as well as dancers from the Rod Rogers Dance Company and Dendy/Donovan Projects.

Nationally-recognized theologian Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis serves as senior minister for the 1,200-member congregation, which is located in Manhattan's East Village. Lewis is the first woman and the first African-American to lead the church in its nearly 400-year history. Founded by Dutch immigrants in 1628, Middle is co-affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Reformed Church in America.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

How do you describe Middle Collegiate Church?

New Yorkers say Middle Church looks like the subway at rush hour but feels like home. When I stand on the pulpit and look out at our congregation, to me it looks like heaven.

We are seniors and toddlers, children and teens. We are multiracial families and single folk. Millennials and boomers are our largest demographic. We are Black, White, Asian and Latinx. We are gay, straight, bisexual and transgender.

We are a Christian church that believes there is more than one path to God. Therefore, Jews, Buddhists, agnostics and atheists join Christians of many stripes in our worship and educational events, and in our work for justice.

What can viewers expect to see during the CBS Christmas Eve worship service?

On the first Sunday of Advent, December 2, we filmed both our 9:30 and 11:45 a.m. worship celebrations. We wanted the sanctuary to look like Christmas and smell like pine. We hope the viewers will have a strong sensory connection to this powerful story of a God coming to earth as a baby born in poverty, a Jewish baby born in a stable, whose parents fled to Egypt in order to save the infant’s life.

What makes this Christmas Eve broadcast different?

The music is classical, gospel, jazz and pop. We were able to secure the rights to “Joyful Joyful” from Sister Act 2. Our choreographers used that for our traditional Advent Dance. We also secured the rights to “Glory” from the movie Selma. Our gospel choir does the rap in unison -- 50 people of various hues, ethnicities, and genders, rapping together.

Our classical choir sings an amazing spiritual called “O Jerusalem in the Morning” and a jazz piece called “A Child is Born.” This Christmas Eve broadcast will have viewers standing on their feet in their living rooms, clapping, dancing and singing along to “Joy to the World” and “Silent Night.” It is, as has been said about Middle Church, where old-time religion gets a new twist.

How did actor Tituss Burgess become involved?

Ten years ago, Tituss came to church. We clicked. He’s like a younger brother to me. One day in worship I was talking about God welcoming everybody. Tituss said, “We need music to tell that story.” On the train home, he began writing music for us, which turned into the album “Welcome!”

When we started a Sunday evening worship geared toward artists, Tituss conducted the Art and Soul chorus. They are many of his friends and students, and they can “SANG!” In this Christmas Eve program, they sing two of the songs from the album, “Grateful” and “You’re My Joy.”

Tituss has had a prolific career on Broadway and uses his amazing voice in his role as Tituss Andromedon on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. What his fans might not know is what an incredible writer and composer he is.

How did you become a minister?

When I was seven years old, attending a Presbyterian church in Chicago with my family, I took communion for the first time. I loved our little church. It had warm oak pews with red cushions, lots of children my age, and music that was classical and gospel.

I think that experience was the beginning of a calling. I sang in the children’s choir and taught Sunday school by the time I was 9. I became an elder on our board when I was sixteen. As a 14-year old at camp, I clearly sensed God calling me to do what my pastor did. He was a Black, bell-bottom wearing, big Afro-having, justice warrior named Oliver Brown. I’m not clear about how, but I got mixed signals about women being in ministry. After a career at the Eastman Kodak Company, I began seminary when I was 30 years old.

How did your time in the business world prepare you to be essentially the CEO of a church?

The corporate world taught me how to manage budgets and do strategic planning. But my work as a consultant to congregations most prepared me to learn how to create visions and strategies for ministry, to see the long picture and help others find their way into those visions. It takes more than a senior minister and staff to do the work of a church.

What would you like to see more of in the business community?

I’d love to see more business leaders lead from their faith, their ethics. In other words, bring your best faithful self to the marketplace. How does an ethic of love guide your decision making about planet and people? How does it shape how you treat employees? How does it influence the way you mentor women, people of color, religious minorities, and the LGBTQ community? I am calling for a revolution of values and behavior based on love.

What would you like to see more of in the world in general?

Less war, more love. Less greed, more love. There really is enough for everyone to not only survive but thrive. I’d like to see a global family caring for all of our children and all of our elders, caring for the planet. I’d like us to feel our liberation is bound up in each other. None of us are free until all are free.

We hope this CBS program draws people to our way of being Christian: "Love. Period."


Los Angeles Times

Monday's TV highlights: 'Beauty and the Beast' on ABC

By Ed Stockly, December 23, 2018


A Bold New Love: A Christmas Eve With Middle Collegiate Church Tituss Burgess conducts the Art & Soul Chorus in a performance of “Grateful” and “You’re My Joy,” two gospel songs he composed, during this one-hour celebration of Christmas Eve from Middle Collegiate Church. 11:35 p.m. CBS


Broadway World

Tituss Burgess to Appear in a Christmas Eve Celebration on CBS

December 18, 2018

A BOLD NEW LOVE: A CHRISTMAS EVE WITH MIDDLE COLLEGIATE CHURCH, a holiday special, will be broadcast Monday, December 24 (11:35 PM-12:35 AM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

This Christmas Eve celebration features gospel and classical music, four choirs, two dance companies, and a spoken word artist. Emmy-nominated and Broadway veteran Tituss Burgess ("Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and "Jersey Boys") will conduct the Art & Soul Chorus singing two gospel songs he composed: "Grateful" and "You're My Joy." This Christmas Eve worship also features music from "Sister Act 2": "Joyful Joyful," in which the church's 50-member Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir is joined by dancers from dendy/donovan projects, Rod Rodgers Dance Company, and the children of Middle Collegiate Church. The Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir performs the Academy Award-winning song, "Glory" from the movie "Selma". Nationally recognized speaker and public theologian the Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, the senior minister of Middle Collegiate Church, offers a powerful sermon. The worship celebration concludes with a candlelight ceremony to the holiday classic "Silent Night."

Middle Collegiate Church is a 1,200-member, multiracial congregation in Manhattan's East Village. The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis is the first woman and the first African-American to serve as senior minister in the Collegiate Churches of New York's nearly 400-year history. The Middle Collegiate Church was founded in 1628 by Dutch immigrants, and is now co-affiliated with the United Church of Christ and Reformed Church in America.

"At the center of the Christmas story is hope...hope which comes to us in the form of a vulnerable, poor baby. A child, not a king, changes the world. God appears to us as a marginalized, Afro-Semitic, Jewish child from Nazareth in Palestine. A child who grows up to teach us to welcome the stranger. How would our world be different if we loved our neighbors as ourselves?" asks the Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, senior minister of Middle Collegiate Church.

In our country that is deeply DIVIDED around race and religion, Middle Collegiate Church is a rare place where blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asian Americans worship together. Also Christian, Jewish, atheist, and Buddhist worshippers are drawn to the congregation because of its legendary music and commitment to the poor, the LGBTQIA+ community, and addressing race relations in our nation. On Christmas Eve, this congregation gives us a picture of unity and hope.

This Christmas Eve special is a production of the Middle Collegiate Church, directed by Broadway and television director Charles Randolph-Wright ("Motown: The Musical" and "Greenleaf") and produced by award-winning producer Michael Hanna. Elizabeth Kineke and John P. Blessington are the executive producers for CBS. Jacqui Lewis is the Executive Producer for Middle Collegiate Church.

In addition to the Art & Soul Chorus, the following choirs and groups perform: the Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir, directed by John Del Cueto; the Middle Church Band, directed by Dionne McClain-Freeney; the Middle Church Choir, directed by Tami Petty; and the Village Chorus for Children and Youth, directed by John Del Cueto. In the "Joyful, Joyful" dance, sections of the dance are choreographed by Broadway's Mark Dendy and Lincoln Center veteran ("Taboo" and "The Pirate Queen") of dendy/donovan projects, Middle Collegiate Church children are choreographed by Broadway's and Alvin Ailey's Adrienne Hurd ("Down to Earth" and "Annie Get your Gun") and Kim Grier-Martinez, Artistic Director of The Rod Rodgers Dance Company.

Genesis Be, founder of People Not Things, is the spoken word artist who reads scripture.



What’s On For Christmas: It’s A Great Time To Catch Up On Netflix And These Holiday Offerings

by Kimberly Ricci, December 24, 2018

A Bold New Love: A Christmas Eve With Middle Collegiate Church (Monday, CBS 11:30 p.m.) — Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s Titus Burgess will conduct the Art & Soul Chorus while singing two of his own gospel songs during this lead-in celebration of Christmas morning.