There are no pictures of today's High Mass. Instead, you can look at the ones on Saint Peter's, London Docks blog, showing Father Martin SSF's Jubilee Mass. What I can tell you, though, is that everyone was surprised and delighted in the numbers that attended. We were not far off being full, apart from, of course, the three rows on the right hand side at the front which seem to have some sort of Bermuda Triangle reputation. Immediately afterwards, I went home and began roasting a joint of smoked ham from the Walsingham Farms Shop and making potato latkes for my Father's birthday dinner. This, preceded by a tuna steak and finished with a particularly good cake from Marks and Spencers, sent me off to the church to prepare for the Carol Service and Benediction.
At which, we recorded record numbers for this event! What is going on? Ah, well, the exodus begins today, with many regulars going to far flung and exotic places like Yorkshire and, in one instance, Norfolk, for the festive season. Added to that, the fact that the two Masses of Christmas tend to be an 'either or' for many, I predict a quiet High Mass of the day. Never mind. Here you see Frs. Norman Price (back of), Croft (top of head of) and Canon Denby (most of) gathering round the microphone in search of heat and saying the Christmas Preface at the end of the candlelit procession and singing of 'Once in Royal David's City'. We sang the traditional version, not the sinful rubbish sung in Saint James', Jermyn Street. Mind you, we had mulled wine and mince pies afterwards, they probably had emu milk and mung bean cookies. Silly people.
Four lessons and carols, a short sermon and a change of clothes later (we found three purple copes this year, so were quite pleased), we process in again to 'Away in a Manger' (which Tim, our organist, played as beautifully as everything else) and Benediction.
And out again afterwards. The bishop's chair, to the right, will be displaced by the crib soon, which traditionally goes up between Advent IV and Christmas Eve. I must go to the market soon and buy some plants to decorate it with. Maybe there will be time for Clitheroe, even, before my friend Fr. Jonathan comes. We formed our friendship one Christmas Eve, singing the Christmas Proclamation from the Martyrology to a packed Saint Mary's Church at midnight, which, as neither of us would boast of our singing prowess, took some doing I can tell you!
Much of Christmas is spent in the ministry of putting things out and taking them back in again, for our vast array of services. However, as I like to point out, we are the only people in the area doing things in this way, so it all needs doing well. Eventually, when the wheel of fire turns a bit further, we will attract more and more people. This is my Christmas prayer for this year, maybe you can make it yours as well, for this small church of Anglo-Catholics in our little suburban parish.