Worshipping community ‘join the song’ and create new Christmas carols

Published: Tuesday November 28, 2023

This year, the Church of England’s Christmas campaign is ‘Follow the Star: Join the Song’. St Catharine’s Church in Gloucester has invited everyone to get involved in not only singing the songs, but writing them too.

As part of Explore Christmas with Kingsholm Primary School at St Catharine’s last year, church member Andy Palfreyman wrote a short carol which the school children learned and performed, so this year, with the ‘Join the Song’ theme, they decided to expand on the concept. A team, made up of Andy Palfreyman, the Revd Jonathan Evans and Mary Pearce, from St Catharine’s, formed to help anyone from the worshipping community and wider parish to write words or music at a number of song-writing workshops in the church, at the local primary school and in the local care home, and were overwhelmed by the response.

Andy says, “It has been fantastic. From asking if anyone wanted to write a new carol, we’ve had 15 submissions and have recorded eight new carols.”

During the workshops, the team helped people think about how to start writing an original song. Then, working in groups, they produced some draft pieces. With contributions from members of St Catharine’s, pupils from Kingsholm Primary and residents of Guild House Care Home, the new carols span the ages, from 4 to 94.

Andy says, “Some people provided lyrics and we sat down with them to put a tune to the words. Others based their carols on familiar tunes such as ‘God bless you all in Gloucester Town’ , which is a new version of ‘God rest ye merry gentlemen’.

“We have good links with the school and care home, so wanted to offer them the chance to be involved. This turned into a wonderful exercise, as we held two song-writing workshops in the school and one at the care home. The idea really got people excited.”

When the team went into Kingsholm Primary, the school worship ministry team had a lot of fun thinking about their songs from the perspective of the donkey, the star, the crib and the sheep. It produced some lovely results and really got the children engaged.

The Guild House Care Home carollers

The church received one submissions created by four residents at Guild House Care Home, and plan to print off the songs and give them to the residents so they can keep or share their own songs with their families.

Andy says, “As we’ve had such a big response, and to give everyone the chance to have their song played, we will be performing the songs during our Sunday and Christmas services. We are also in the process of recording videos of the songs so we can share them online.

“One of my favourites songs was a simple one written by children at our Wednesday Church in October half term. It’s called Christmas Joy, and it’s just two verses. The first verse talks about the excitement of Christmas and presents, but the second verse is about remembering Jesus and his birth. It’s really lovely.”

The Revd Jo Pestell says, “It has been really wonderful seeing the different contributions from so many people, enabling us to engage with Jesus’ birth in a whole new way. The angels sang a new song over the shepherds as they proclaimed peace and calmed their fears. How much we still need that today, and this opportunity to join in with each other in song and share creative gifts has lifted our eyes to hope and joy as we move towards Christmas.”

To find services at St Catharine’s, visit: Events – St Catharine’s Church, London Road, Gloucester – A Church Near You



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