Peeping at the daily secrets of an Advent calendar, dazzling decorations, garnished trees and brightly illuminated town centres. All are universal symbols of the approaching festive season. But there is nothing quite so meaningful as a traditional carol service to awaken the true spirit of Christmas; joyously communal, warmly inspiring and spiritually reflective. And no setting could be more fitting than that of a majestic old church in the centre of a small rural town.
It was in the idyllic setting of St Chad’s Church in Poulton-le-Fylde that companions and friends gathered to rejoice in the true meaning of Christmas. It was the traditional annual Fylde Masonic Carol Service organised by the chapters of the Fylde, and except for a lack of snow, the setting and occasion was perfect.
Companions of eminence were in abundance and representatives of Royal Arch chapters from throughout the Fylde swelled the numbers to fill the grandeur of the charming rural church. Voices were enthusiastically raised in joyous celebration of the story of the nativity in a superbly arranged programme of choral sessions consisting of some of the most popular Christmas hymns, interspersed with narrative lessons read by distinguished companions that included; Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals David Randerson, Blackpool Group Chairman John Turpin, North Fylde Group Chairman Duncan Smith, South Fylde Group Chairman Ian Ward, South Fylde Group Secretary David Barr and Provincial Grand Chaplain Rev Canon Godfrey Hirst, all under the direction of the vicar of St Chad’s Church Rev Canon Martin Keighley.
The uplifted mood of the congregation was unmistakable when it heartily wrapped its tonsils around the first carol, ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ and continued to revel in the yuletide spirit with other favourites like ‘Away in a Manger’, ‘Silent Night’, ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’, ‘Hark! the Herald Angels Sing’, ‘While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night’, ‘The First Noel’ and ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’. The poignancy and enjoyment of the occasion was further enriched by the inclusion of lesser known seasonal refrains and fitting songs, beautifully performed by St Chad’s Choir. These ranged from classical songs of praise like ‘Adam Lay Ybounden’ and ‘Remember O Thou Man’ to cheery ditties such as the ever popular ‘Ding Dong Merrily’. All were very much appreciated by the congregation who spontaneously applauded the choir at the end of the service, a gesture that Rev Canon Martin Keighley observed as an ‘out of the ordinary’ experience for a church choir.
As is customary at the annual Carol Service, a collection was taken by the first principals of various Fylde chapters, and in his closing remarks, the Rev Canon Martin Keighley commented on the excellent attendance and the generosity of those present, wishing them a most joyous Christmas and prosperous New Year.
A splendid and fitting festive afternoon had been enjoyed by the companions, their family and friends and rounding off the day in perfect style, the revellers eagerly sojourned to sample the delights of hot coffee and scrumptious mince pies.
It had been a Carol Service in the spirit of Royal Arch Masonry that really brought out the true spirit of Christmas.