(I'm dating this for Sunday, but Sunday went waaaay too late, so I'm writing the next day!)
Today was our day for Carol Services. I'm actually a huge fan of Carol Services. I love the mix of readings and music, storytelling and symbolism.
We started the day by driving through near-snow-storm conditions to St. John's Weston in Toronto. Dad had an interim there last year, and we were invited back this year for their Carol and Christmas Eve services. I would call this morning's service more of an Advent Carol Service. The readings ranged from Creation through Christmas, with a strong emphasis on the world's preparation for the coming of Jesus. We sang three songs - "I Wonder as I Wander", "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen", and "Welcome to Bethlehem". I was a little hesitant about doing "Welcome". I didn't know if it would be seen as too fun, or even too irreverent. Wow, was I wrong! People loved it! We got more compliments on that anything else. I actually had a very proud moment when someone asked if Gerald wrote it. High praise, indeed!
St. John's Weston is a stunning little church with a dynamic, multicultural congregation. They're a lot of fun, and very spiritual. Tonight, we sang at Dad's new interim, St. George's Church in Guelph (lots of driving today!) and in terms of church size, it couldn't have been more different. Where St. John's looks packed with 100 people, St. George's seats hundreds and hundreds. It's a gorgeous old church with stained glass, carved wood, marble floors, and restored vintage paintings. The similarity is a wonderful and dynamic congregation.
Tonight's service was a beautiful traditional English-style Christmas Carol Service. They started with the church in darkness, and the servers had a wonderful, extended candle-lighting ceremony that gradually lit the entire sanctuary. The readings also started with Creation, but focused more on the actual Christmas story. There were lots of great hymns, and the choir sang the wonderful Willcocks descants (choir people will know what I mean!). St. George's has a great choir, and they sang some beautiful pieces including one of my favourites, "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day."
We weren't originally booked to sing at tonight's service, but when Dad found out we were free, he asked if we could come and sing during his homily. The message is always short at a Carol Service, so he told a few different Christmas stories - some funny, some poignant - to remind us that our story may be told in different ways, but that the truth is the same throughout. We sang the song "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" to relate how the Christmas story was interpreted during the Great Depression, and how those circumstances are so relevant to us today.
The entire service was so detailed and beautiful. We were very well received, and I think we may be visiting again in May.
The weather was better but not perfect tonight, so we were all very late getting home. No one was tired, so we had eggnog lattes and watched The Vicar of Dibley Christmas special. If you like Brit-coms, you must check it out. It's one of our favourites!