Dear PJs Community,
This Sunday, January 2nd, St. PJ’s will hold a Service of Lessons and Christmas Carols. Though many of us are familiar with the “Lessons and Carols” broadcast from King’s College in Cambridge, England every Christmas Eve, the origins go back to the late nineteenth century. Up until then Christmas carols were usually performed by groups of singers visiting people’s homes. In 1875, a book of “Carols for Use in Church During Christmas and Epiphany” was published and carols became popular during services. A few years later, The Right Rev. Edward White Benson, the Bishop of Truro, was bothered by all the drinking that was going on during the season and wanted to attract folks out of the pubs and back to church. He liked the idea of a service of Christmas music interspersed with Bible readings and the first service of “Nine Lessons and Carols” was held at 10:00 pm on Christmas Eve in 1880. It drew over 400 people!
In 1918, Eric Milner-Dean, who had served as a chaplain in World War I, was the new dean of King’s College. He felt that the trauma of war had lessened people’s enthusiasm for religion, so in an effort to make the service at King’s College more imaginative and interesting, he introduced the “Nine Lessons and Carols” service on Christmas Eve of that year. In 1928, the service was broadcast by the BBC, and since 1931 it has been broadcast every year, even during World War II. During that first service at King’s College in 1918, many of those in attendance were undoubtedly recalling all those that were lost in the “Great War” as they prayed for “all those that rejoice with us but on another shore and in a greater light.” This season, with “A Bidding Prayer,” we will remember all who have been lost to the ongoing pandemic “because God particularly loves…the poor and helpless, the cold, the hungry, the sick and those who mourn.”
While Dean Milner-White felt that the strength of the service was in the lessons rather than the music, the powerful pull of the music is key to the lasting popularity of the service. For the past few years at St. PJ’s, the solid duo of Will Cleary and Andrew Fermo have ministered to us with their talent and imaginations. Many of us have been drawn in by the beauty and quality of their jazz music. Maybe some have even been pulled out of the pub! This Sunday will mark the last official Sunday that Drew will serve as our Assistant Minister of Music, as he begins the next phase of his promising musical career. We are thankful for the opportunity to have witnessed his growth as a musician and a person over so many Sundays. Hopefully, he will return for an occasional encore performance.
We hope that you will join us for this special service, which will be live-streamed on Facebook and on our website: stpaulstjames.org. In the Church, we will continue with physical distancing and masking at all times. Please remember that if you are not fully vaccinated and boosted, or have any symptoms of a cold or allergy, or if you have had recent exposure to someone who is ill, you should remain at home. Thank you for helping us to keep each other safe during these challenging times.
“Be well, Be safe, Hold hope, and Keep the Faith.”
Brian Fillmore, Warden