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Headmaster’s Christmas Blog 15th December 2012

December 15, 2011

Applause in heaven?

We recently celebrated the end of term and the Christmas season with a community Carol Service for the whole school in our Sports’ Hall and then the traditional service in the Christchurch Priory on the final evening of the term. Both occasions were very special. The first service was notable because every pupil and staff member could attend and the Year 5s made ‘christingles’ which were lit as the service came to a close illuminating an otherwise dull evening. There was also a careful mix of six carols and seven readings with a consideration of the meaning of the ‘christingles’ – the orange for the world, the red ribbon for Christ’s blood, the fruit for the four seasons and the central candle for Jesus, the Light of the World.

Our school Carol Service at the Priory, attended by all the Prep School, many senior pupils, staff, governors and parents, took place in the nave of the 700 year old building. Here there was a wider mix of music (including songs by the Pre-Prep, soloists, a staff choir, the senior and junior handbells and a massed school choir from Years 6 to 11). There was also a spread of readings from the Bible (including John 1 from the King James’ version in recognition of the 400 anniversary of this translation) through to poems and modern stories of Christmas. There was both an atmosphere of awe and of rejoicing and it was here that a dilemma presented itself – to applaud or to remain silent?

Father Darryl Jordan, the Texan priest at the Priory, opened the service by placing it within the context of Christian worship in an historic building which pre-dated the Reformation. Four songs into the service, however, following the Pre-Prep’s exciting rendition of ‘Rocky Road’ (Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem) there was spontaneous applause. My neighbour in a front pew said, ‘Father Darryl won’t like that’ – and yet the clapping following each musical item continued throughout the service. Towards the end, Father Darryl stood up to give the blessing and used the opportunity to bring some closing comments. He had told me privately before we began that he really enjoyed the Ballard Carol service owing to the variety and careful choice of music and readings and in his public comments he repeated his appreciation and then concluded that he felt applause in the context of this service was highly appropriate as we acknowledged God-given talent and worship which was heartfelt. He said that he was sure there was rejoicing and commendation in heaven, too! I left relieved and was further encouraged by a comment at the large north door as people left: ‘A school which sings well is clearly a happy school.’

A Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year – with plenty of applause!

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