1. Our Advent and Christmas programme proceeds apace. All are most welcome to our annual Christingle Service to be held in the Abbey at 5.00 pm today. The collection will go to the work of the Children’s Society. Please also make a note of Sherborne Christmas, the Christmas Concert which is the Abbey’s gift to the town, to be held tomorrow on Monday 9 December. Started ten years ago and hugely popular, the concert brings together the Abbey Choir, Sherborne Town Band, the Sherborne Young Singers, the Sherborne Singers and the Gryphon School’s Cantabile Choir. It begins at 7.30 pm. We will be taking a retiring collection in aid of the Weldmar Hospicecare Trust. The Trust not only provides the Joseph Weld Hospice in Dorchester, but also the Weldmar Community Nurses, who work throughout the County – including from the Yeatman Hospital. This year we will be joined by Caroline Hamblett, the Weldmar CEO. She will speak briefly about the work of the Trust in the course of the event. Do bring family, friends and neighbours. Meanwhile you should find at the back of all our churches the list of all our special Advent and Christmas services, including the many carol services, not least the remaining “Shoppers’ Carols”! Do take some copies of the leaflet and spread them around.
2. Something like 400 people attended the three Shoppers’ Carol Services in the Abbey last Sunday, and we received many appreciative comments. On Saturday 21 December we will be holding four more – at 12 noon, 1.00, 2.00 and 3.00 pm. It is always a great pleasure to welcome friends from the local branch of the Gideons to these services. They give away a good number of New Testaments, which I like to think of as seeds being sown.
3. The Abbey’s own Carol Service is only a fortnight away, on Sunday 22 December at 3.00 pm. Seats in the nave fill up very early, so please arrive in good time – not forgetting that you will need to allow time to park. It will not be possible to bring cars into the Close from Half Moon Street. By long tradition the collection at the Abbey Carol Service is given to the Abbey Choir Fund, which enables the Choir to buy new music and robes. The Fund, which is also supported by the Sherborne Abbey Festival, provides a growing number of bursaries which help provide some of the boys with lessons in the musical instrument of their choice. Our aim is not just to recruit choristers to sing, but to give them a musical education which will be part of their lives long after their voices have broken. The Choir is currently singing to a very high standard, and I commend the Carol Service collection to your generosity, as a way of showing your appreciation of all that the Choir does to enrich our worship throughout the year. Gifts can also be left at the Parish Office, of course – and can be enhanced in value by being Gift Aided. Thank you very much indeed.
4. Despite the many carol services, we will not be forgetting our monthly observance Remembering the Fallen on Friday 20 December, at 11.00 am in the Abbey. This short ceremony includes the reading of a page of names from each of the Abbey’s four Books of Remembrance: The Dorsetshire Regiment’s Books from the First and Second World Wars, The Rifles’ current Book and the Town’s own Book of its war dead. The Last Post and Reveille are sounded and we observe the Two Minutes’ Silence. If you remember – do come.
5. Finally, a note about the General Election. Sherborne Churches Together (SCT) have decided that our most constructive contribution to this month’s Election is not to host hustings, but instead to hold a Prayer Vigil for our divided nation on the evening before the Election. This will take place in the Abbey on this Wednesday, 11 December, from 8.00 pm to 10.00pm. John Bradshaw, Chairman of SCT, will introduce the Vigil, and then our five constituent members will each lead a 20-minute “slot” in their own tradition. As our members are the CofE, the RCs, Cheap Street Church, the Community Church and the Quakers, please expect five very different “slots”. This will be hugely enriching in itself, but also healing in embracing our different traditions. No-one needs to stay for all two hours. It would be good if people could come and go as one slot ends and another begins, but that’s a request, not a demand! The last quarter of an hour (from 9.45 pm) will be a united service of Compline: an ancient late-evening service which is almost wholly based on scripture. I look forward to leading this. It will be said, not sung.