Monday, December 03, 2007

Double dose of church services

Cath and I went to the Civic service in the Bethel Presbyterian Church of Wales, Heathfield Road, Liverpool (at the end of my street essentially).

We sat with the mayors from all over Merseyside, with the Recorder and the Chief of Police and all sorts of other dignatories. There were about 8 LCC councillors present I think.

I love civic masses and civic services but this was particularly interesting.

Half of the hymns and half of the service were in Welsh, which was fascinating. Cath said she felt like John Redwood trying but failing to sing the Welsh National Anthem. We did try to sing along with the Welsh but at times fell back on la-la-ing and singing the words quietly in English where we knew them - like Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

The Minister was particularly welcoming and stressed the importance of the city coming together for our 800th birthday.

There were moving contributions from Welsh congregation members, including the wonderful singing of Muriel Cunningham, very much reminiscent of Charlotte Church and a lovely 800th birthday song from another member of the church whose name I missed.

We were made very welcome and I wouldn't mind worshipping with them occasionally on a Sunday morning.

Thank you for inviting me.

In the afternoon I went with Lisa and little Isaac to the Christingle Service at All Souls CoE church on Mather Avenue on the corner of Springwood Avenue.

If you have been to a Christingle service you will know it is really a service for children to help introduce them to Advent and to Christmas.

Wikipedia tells us that "a Christingle is a symbolic object used in advent services in churches of many Christian denominations. It has its origins in the Moravian Church , with the first recorded use, in Germany, in 1747.

This is the story of the first Christingle:

One Christmas time back in 1747 at a town in Germany, Pastor John sat at home in front of his fire. He was thinking how he could explain the love of Jesus, and what Christmas really meant to the children in the church. He decided to prepare a simple symbol to help make the message of Christmas fresh and lively for them. Pastor John gave each child a lighted candle wrapped in a red ribbon, with a prayer that said "Lord Jesus, kindle a flame in these dear children's hearts". This was the first ever Christingle service.

Many years later, in 1968, Christingle services were introduced to the Anglican Church in Britain by John Pensom of The Children's Society, and the custom spread quickly; each year there are more and more Christingle services in England and Wales, although today's Christingles are a little different.

The Christingle consists of:

an orange representing the world with
a red ribbon around it representing the blood of Jesus
fruits and sweets (usually dolly mixtures) are skewered on 4 cocktail sticks which are pushed into the orange representing the fruits of the earth and the four seasons
and a lighted candle is pushed into the centre of the orange representing Christ, the light of the world"

Our service followed this faithfully, although my Christingle only had three cocktail sticks instead of four - I was robbed!

Isaac volunteered to take part in the service and went up to the altar with the big boys and girls to play his part. We held our breath, Lisa and I, but if anything, this lovely little boy was better behaved than the bigger children who stood with him. The curate said later that his face and his poise gave her a really strong sense of the meaning of Christmas as she watched him solemnly taking part in the service.

A rousing rendition of "Is this the way to shine for Jesus" to the tune of Amarillo and a candle-lit Away in a Manger were particularly memorable.

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