It was in July 1880 that Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Connaught laid, upon a miserably wet day, the foundation stone of St Mark’s Church and seventeen years later she returned to lay the foundation stone for St Mark’s school. Now 130 years later, we celebrate the success of both the church and the school and rejoice in the close partnership that church and school have built. Tonight, we turn back the clocks and try to imagine we are worshipping in a time gone by.
A couple of weeks ago I went to a Christmas Tree Festival at St Mark’s Church, a four day event which included a market, a night with GK’s Funky People, Christingle Service organised by the children from St Mark’s Primary School and a tea party for the old folk.
At the Christingle Service the back of the programme listed the upcoming Christmas programme, one of which was a Victorian Christmas Carol Concert.
I almost set off to it Sunday evening, luckily I double checked the programme to find it was actually Wednesday evening, three days later.
I arrived to be greeted at the door by the Rev Ian Hedges and handed a programme by a lady dressed in Victorian costume.
And what a lovely spectacle greeted my eyes. At the front of the church half a dozen little urchins stood holding candles. A sprinkling of the congregation had gone to the trouble of wearing Victorian dress.
The concert started with a brief explanation by Ian Hedges of the concert and the early history of the church and the associated school. He apologised that he had been unable to obtain a Victorian frock coat for the occasion.
The concert was in celebration of 130 years since the founding of the Church. In July 1880 the foundation stone was laid by Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Connaught, daughter-in-law of Queen Victoria. Seventeen years later, the foundation stone of St Mark’s School was laid. A commemorative service was held to celebrate the opening of church. It then fell down!
Ian then handed over to the children.
Lights were dimmed, a procession of children walked through the church holding candles to join the other half dozen already at the front. The reading of the lessons, the singing, all led by the children.
What I especially liked was when a group stood together beneath an old lamp and explained the various symbols of Christmas.
I also liked a rather unusual Tell Me a Story Shining Star, giving the impression of an old fold song.
The concert ended with a rather upbeat version of The Holy and Ivy. Followed by a closing address by Ian Hedges. He had little to say other than to thank everyone, because as he said, the kids had said it all. Then at his request, the kids gave us an encore of their upbeat The Holy and Ivy.
The collection was for a charity called Saint George Foundation. I had never heard of them and thought nothing more of it, until a chance conversation with a man as I was leaving, who just happened to be the founder of the charity. From him I learnt it was helping street children in Sierra Leone. I am pleased to report the collection raised £200.
Strange, as during the carol service my thoughts turned to Canon Andrew White, aka the Vicar of Baghdad, and the work he has done with the street children of Baghdad and the love he has for those children. As I was writing I thought of the foundation Paulo Coelho funds in Rio to help street children.
I had been very impressed by the way the children from St Mark’s School conducted the Christingle Service a couple of weeks before. I was equally impressed by the way they conducted the Victorian Carol Concert.
My only regret was no photography as I would have loved to have shared the visual experience.
I was also feeling very sad as my lovely friend Sian was not with me.
After the service I found under a Christmas tree delightful late Victorian Christmas Cards.
At this time of year as our thoughts turn to Bethlehem, two thousand years ago, please also give a thought to Bethlehem today. Then it was under Roman occupation, today it is under Israeli occupation. The people of Bethlehem live in an open-air prison surrounded by an Apartheid Wall. [see Bethlehem Hidden from View]
All the more tragic that there are churches like St Mary’s in Guildford that support the apartheid regime and ethnic cleansing by having on sale Israeli so-called Peace Oil. [see Peace oil or taking the piss?]