Over Christmas, St Matthew’s, Shankill, revived a tradition of a carol service, adapted to changing times.
In the days when St Matthew’s had a parish choir the equal of any in Belfast, the service of Nine Lessons and Carols was held annually on the Sunday evening before Christmas. With the difficulties of life in the Shankill over the last 40 years, the service declined and was eventually abandoned.
The key to the restored service was the presence of members of the First Old Boys Band, under their conductor, Stephen Cairns. An award-winning band, with an international reputation, they have twice played carols at St Matthew’s in recent years – even out-of-doors!
This year, the traditional readings were used, which tell the Christian story from our first disobedience through the prophecies of the Messiah to the birth of Jesus, worshipped as King of Israel and Saviour of the world.
The service was adapted for all-congregational singing, accompanied by band and / or organ. The readings were read by representatives of organisations serving the welfare of the local community, including a residents’ group, the Greater Shankill Partnership, and the Mater Hospital.
The congregation exceeded expectations, and contributed very generously towards the Connor Diocesan project to build the Mongo Primary School in the Diocese of Yei, Southern Sudan. After the service, tea, coffee and shortbread were served in the church.
This was a service that brought encouragement, joy and hope. St Matthew’s extends heartfelt thanks to all the musicians who so enabled the praise.