I’m struggling a bit. For years now, I’ve been responsible for writing an alternative carol service for St Augustine’s Church in Norwich. I don’t know quite how that happened, but I suspect it’s because if you volunteer to do something once in the Church of England, you’re pretty much landed with it till the end of time.
The idea is probably that you get to think about eternity quite a lot.
It’s a bit of a challenge, thinking up a new way of working songs, poetry, monologues and drama – not to mention carols and readings – into a period of about three quarters of an hour when most people have their minds on the Christmas lunch to follow.
I have also tried to work in a few topical and local references, with the result that when you go back and read the scripts (as I have recently been doing) some elements come over as rather mysterious. Which again, I suppose, is not a bad thing.
We have had the Nativity as reported on radio and in newspapers. We have had a talking sheep, and an angel on Mastermind. We have had health and safety calling the whole thing off. We have had incompetent soldiers, unwise men and … well, you get the idea. Our most recent vicar, now resident in Aspen, Colorado, always called it a Christmas play. I don’t know why. Perhaps because he used to be in advertising.
What, you may justifiably ask, is this alternative carol service an alternative to? I have been asked that before, and the answer is that it’s an alternative to not having one. I don’t know if that clarifies things.
Anyway this year, as I said, I’m struggling. What new approach can I try? Last year I went for radical ideas about what the first Christmas was really like, and I’m not sure that worked. Too much comfortable propaganda for the traditional tales. I have tried repeating excerpts of previous years; so I can’t really do that again. I need something really new.
Or do I? Maybe I’ll just go for a traditional carol service. A bit of singing and reading. That should confuse them. They’ll probably be thinking about the turkey anyway.