At the end of November I began Jury service, becoming one of about 200,000 people who fulfil this public duty. Jurors are randomly selected from the electoral register, ensuring that those called for service reflect the community from which they are drawn.
Sunday 1st December is Advent Sunday, the start of the season of expectation and preparation as we prepare to greet Christ in his incarnation. As well as the usual morning services, there will be a benefice Advent Carol service at 4pm. This is not to be confused with the Christmas Carol Service! During Advent, church decorations are sparse, flower arrangers taking a much deserved rest until Christmas Eve, when their creative skills are once again given full rein, with the addition of holly, ivy and tinsel. The altar frontal and vestments are changed to purple, to reflect the season's penitential nature. Services focus on the Advent Wreath, as we seek to become one with those who waited in darkness for the revealing of God's light. Each Sunday of Advent has its candle, reminding us of those who prepared for the coming of Christ – the Patriarchs, the Prophets, John the Baptist, Mary. The final candle, a white one, is lit at Midnight Mass, symbolising Christ the Light of the World. You will find details of this and all Advent and Christmas services in this edition, and on the Sunday news letters.
During Advent, and as a preparation for Christmas, we will be exploring worship in different ways. The Revd Lynda Mead will be leading three sessions at the Rectory. Each one is complete in itself, and you are welcome to join us for any or all of them. Simply turn up on the day at 2pm. Session 1 comprises a Prayer Walk – using the rooms of the Rectory, so no sou'wester or Wellingtons necessary. Session 2 will focus on the Advent Journey, and the final session will include a silent Holy Communion.
There are many traditions and customs associated with Advent and Christmas. One of my favourites is 'Las Posadas', which began in Mexico in the sixteenth century, and is now observed in many parts of the world. 'Posada', which means inn or shelter, celebrates the arrival of the expectant May with her husband Joseph to Bethlehem. The posada guests re-enact the couple's inability initially to find accommodation. Splitting into two groups - one group remaining outside, anxious for shelter; the other remaining inside like the innkeepers. A song is sung back and forth until the guests are finally granted entrance and treated to traditional foods and drinks. As well as being fun, and the opportunity to share hospitality, the drama recalls Mary's resilience, and her husband's faithful response to the Angel Gabriel. Posada can prompt us to consider how we might respond to, and help, those in our own day who find themselves vulnerable and in need.
Due to the constraints and pressures of preparing and printing, this is a combined edition. As 2019 draws to a close, I want to thank Jaki and John at TLC Online for their care in preparing and printing our magazine. Thank you to Margaret and Elizabeth in the benefice office, those who have taken out advertisements and provided sponsorship, those who have delivered the publication. An edition is only as good as its contibutors make it, and I am most appreciative of those who have supplied us with news and articles. And, not least, thank you for reading it...
The Carol Service at St Katharine's on Sunday 22nd December will be Joan Willrich's last service as organist. Shortly afterwards she celebrates her 90 birthday! The daughter of a priest, Joan has spent half her life at St Katharine's Church, not only seated at the organ console, but serving on the PCC, acting as sacristan, and arranging flowers - and more. I shall miss hearing her rendition of the Intermezzo from Mascagni's 'Cavalleria Rusticana' during the Sunday service, which has become something of a signature tune. We offer our thanks and good wishes to Joan, and to her husband John, who has been a constant encouragement in the background. I am pleased to report that Philip Baxter, Director of Music at the Abbey Church, has kindly offered to play for the services in the New Year.
As you plan your seasonal celebrations, I invite you to worship with us.
With my love and prayers, and every blessing for Christmas and 2020.