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Saturday, 23 December 2017

The traditional Nine Lessons and Carols can lead to many things...

The Revd Roger Smith at St-Hippolyte Church
When Bishop Edward Benson first devised the traditional service of Nine Lessons and Carols back in 1880 he likely did not know how how that service would spread globally, and not within the English-speaking world. In this Diocese in Europe it continues to be an annual way to reach out to the community of both English speakers and local national residents in a given country, and uniquely brings them together in great numbers for this service of prayers, carols and readings. 

For instance, in one of our newer "parishes", the Church of All Saints, Hérault, in southern France, recently about 400 people filled the ancient 13th century Church of Saint-Hippolyte in the village of Fontès. In the service led by our priest in All Saints, the Revd Roger Smith, the traditional readings  were given in both French and English. The local Maïre was on hand to greet the assembly, marking this out as a significant gathering in this locality.  The customary festive English fare of mince pies served with the delicious local wine, concluded the service.

People from the region arriving early to get a good seat at the Carol Service
But here is an interesting fact to add to Church of England mission strategy: The present flourishing All Saints Chaplaincy in Hérault can actually trace its origin, not to any particularly new technique or programme, but to the first such traditional carol service in the region back in 2001! Now the parish continues to grow in age groups and national background, celebrating the Eucharist regularly and with periodic services of Confirmation. It is engaged in outreach to the community, notably in support to Syrian refugees through a local group, the Languedoc Solidarity with Refugees. And it has a reader in training and a postulant for Holy Orders!

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