>On the Edale Carol Service, Christmas 2010
Being a left-footer I usually find myself going outside the valley when in need of guilt-letting and spiritual sustenance of the more traditional kind. So venturing into Edale church for last December’s service of readings and carols was only the second time in the year or so that I have been in Ollerbrook that I have crossed the threshold of the Holy & Undivided Trinity.
The last time I went to nine lessons and carols was a decade or more ago when I took my late father to King’s. I recall it was bitterly cold then as we queued for several hours to gain entry to the famous chapel. This year too, it was cold, very cold. Perhaps that’s an understatement – this year it was positively Arctic. But at least there wasn’t a queue.
Perhaps there’s something of a pattern here – the colder it is the more spiritual I become. Or perhaps I mean spiritually hungry? The colder it is, the more willing I am to do whatever it takes to secure good mulled wine and mince pies – even of the Anglican variety!
But really, the truth is, I love singing carols. Even as a relative newcomer, I expected this service would be good. Having gate-crashed the choir’s perambulation around the village two days before, I was relishing the chance to listen to Edale’s finest in full voice. This time the brilliant sonic rainbow of their fuguing would be untouched by the foggy contribution of an eager amateur lusting after pies and liquor. I wasn’t disappointed. From the unmistakable tones of James Marson’s entrance solo for Little Town of Bethlehem through to the climax of Hark The Herald Angels Sing, this was the place to be in Edale’s bleak midwinter of 2010.
And I think the lessons were on the money too – but my liturgical memory is a little hazier. In fact, having accepted Belinda’s invitation to offer an account of the service for Ringing Roger, I realised I had absolutely no idea what had been offered! I know, I thought, I’ll ask the big man himself. Adrian’s voicemail two days later offered little relief – ‘I have absolutely no idea what I talked about!’, he said. Well, I can tell you the opening: it was about his obsession with metal. My suspicion though is that this was simply a soft lead into the heart of the matter – if I could only remember what that was …
The title on the service sheet gives me a clue: God’s Grace For A Fallen World. Catholics like to ponder grace as I am sure do all Christians. I know it’s got just a little something to do with love. And if you asked me to sum up Edale’s carol service in a phrase, I’d say it was God’s grace manifest – by which I mean I witnessed love in the warm welcome of the community of Edale. Sydney Carter read by Owen Williams challenged us to shut our Bibles up and show how the Christ we talk about is living now. Well here it was in the music, in the lessons, in the singing, in the mince pies and mulled wine after service refreshments – in the ineffable joy of undivided community and spirit.