There's a lot to be done this week to clear the last subscriber accounts from the unfinished file, and get the first batch of next year's invoices ready for sending while I'm away, before we set off for Canada. So I've been putting in a lot of extra hours lately, in the hope of returning to a clean fresh start in mid January. Last night and again this evening, I went straight from the new Charles Street office over to St John's for a carol service.
Last night it was the Kidney Wales Carols. I'd been invited to give the blessing at the end, and I was pleased be allowed back to do this. The event mixes bi-lingual carol singing from congregation and suberb choirs and soloists (two adult, one Welsh primary school choice) with poems, scripture readings and brief addresses from several people, and attracts over two hundred people. With only a small part to play at the end, I was able to relax and enjoy the music without feeling the usual Vicar's concern for the whole event.
Tonight it was the St John Priory for Wales Carol service with over 250 people present, mainly members of the order, many in uniform. It was a more traditional lessons and carols event, and this created an opportunity to congratulate the new Prior designate, Dan Clayton Jones, and salute the out-going Prior, Hugh Thomas - both of whom were among the lesson readers.
With nothing to do apart from just relax and be there tonight, I found I was able to sing all the carols loudly and right through without strain. For me this was a noticable difference When I was leading half a dozen or more big carol services in previous years, I couldn't sing flat out or sing everything, for fear of singing myself hoarse and having insufficient voice to pray or bless. I've noticed other clergy do the same too. It could be that they have withdrawn into silent prayer doing te singing, but voice preservation seems more probable, given that, even for the most experienced of us, it's something of a strain to hold a big service together, and more of a strain to have to do so often in this busiest season of the year.
It's enjoyable to be on the receiving end much more often these days than at any time since I was young, even if I do miss the creative work of preaching regularly and leading worship.