Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Carol Service

It's actually much later than the time clock will show on this post. It's been a long day, and I'm exhausted, and tomorrow is even longer... but this morning was just wonderful, and I really want to have a record of it, so here goes...

We all know Dad is retired, but those of us who know him well knew that he wouldn't actually stop working. For the last few months, he has been working an interim position at a small church in Weston (West Toronto). They've been without permanent clergy for some time now, and they've all just fallen in love with Dad and his creative approach to ministry. Once we knew he'd be there for Christmas, we asked if we could sing, and we were booked for their Christmas Carol Service, and both Christmas Eve services.

The music was chosen weeks ago, so I felt very prepared, but this morning nearly stressed me out completely. First, we were late leaving the house. Then, we had horrific rain, which made it a very tense, and extra long, highway drive. We didn't arrive at the church until 30 minutes before the worship time, and in that time, we had to find our places, tune the guitar, practice with the organist, do a sound check ourselves, and get ourselves ready and presentable. And, of course, because it was our first visit, we had to meet everybody too. It was just way too much in way too little time. Finally, I sat in the pew, and said a quick prayer for God to give me peace, and to take control of the music... and the service began.

St. John's Weston is a truly beautiful little church. It could be in a movie, it's just so pretty. The congregation is small but vibrant. Dad had told us how they had welcomed him, and we felt that this morning. It wasn't just that people were friendly - They had a genuine interest in who we were and what we were all about. We just loved being there!

The service was the traditional Christmas Carol Service of readings, hymns, and special music. We opened with "Once in Royal David's City" and I did the acapella-verse-one solo, followed by the choral procession. My first full solo was "Soon and Very Soon". I was a little nervous going in to this one, party due to the craziness of the morning, and partly because I had very little (read: "almost no") rehearsal with the organist. But it actually went really well. I repeated the first verse at the end, and asked the congregation to sing along. It was great! They all sang and clapped, and the whole thing just made me feel very comfortable and confident.

Next, I did "The Joseph Carol", and the congregation sang on the chorus. Gerald and I did "The Stable Bare" with him on guitar, me on vocals, and our last song was "Sing Me a Song", with Gerald on djembe. The rest of the music was choral selections and congregational carols. Each song was in response to a specific Bible reading, and the whole service just flowed beautifully.

At the end of the service, one of the parishioners led the dismissal, and this is what she said:

"Our worship has ended. Our service has just begun.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord."

I just love this! I had goosebumps when she said it!

We stayed for the coffee hour, and I think every person in the congregation stayed too. What a great group of people. We did lots of chatting, and even found a few Gaither fans! This was also our first public opportunity to sell the new CD, and it was very successful. This just thrilled us, especially given the smaller size of the congregation, because it meant that people were really excited by what we did in the service.

Tomorrow, I've booked a carolling gig for us in the afternoon (sort of regretting that now, but I'm sure it will be great). Then we'll do 2 services in the evening. The music load is a little lighter, but it's still going to be a long day with lots of singing. Must get some sleep so I can enjoy it all.

But speaking of "enjoying", we've just been loving our time home! Here are a few Christmas traditions and cool Canadian things we've done so far:

- Shopping at Canadian Tire - the best store ever!
- Experiencing a true winter storm.
- Swiss Chalet quarter-chicken-dark-with-fries.
- The $1 breakfast at IKEA. (no IKEA in Tennessee!)
- Victorian Christmas Carolling, especially our night at Centennial Gardens.
- Making Christmas cookies with Mom, using Nana's recipes.
- Watching Dante, our Nashville puppy, fall in love with snow.
- Mom's homemade Tourtiere.
- Trying to figure out how to seat 14 people for Christmas dinner in the new house.

Just loving every minute of it! Now... must sleep!

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