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Beer and carols: taking Christmas down the pub

One Cambridgeshire church has been finding having a Christmas carols event at their local has turned into a village tradition ...

One Cambridgeshire church has been finding having a Christmas carols event at their local has turned into a village tradition ...

Rev Ruth Whitehead, from Duxford URC, Cambridgeshire, tells the story:

The vision: a pub full of people, lustily singing Christmas Carols over a few drinks. This vision was based on an account someone gave me of Beer & Hymns at Greenbelt. So I approached the owner of my local pub and asked whether he would be interested in hosting such an evening. I would bring a keyboard and pianist, some carol sheets (better not get beer on the church hymn books, I thought) and hopefully some church members to swell the singing. He would choose an evening when he didn’t mind having no-one dining and provide whatever drinks people wanted to buy (including mulled wine) and some free nibbles. We settled on the Wednesday before Christmas.
I proposed the idea to my church meetings.

"Will there be Bible readings?" they asked.
"No" I replied, "just beer ... and carols."
"‘What about prayers?"
"No – just beer and carols."
"A sermon?"
"Beer, carols ... no sermon."
"Will it stop people coming to the proper carol service at church?"
"‘I don’t know – I hope not!"
Eventually the format was agreed – beer (or the non-alcoholic or other alcoholic beverage of your choice) and carols: the latter chosen by the drinkers calling out which ones they would like to sing. And to give us a break from singing, some ‘cracker jokes’ from the minister, plus a chance for anyone who was so minded to do a ‘turn’ – sing a solo, play an instrument, give a recitation, tell a joke … whatever.
We put together some posters, explaining the event, which went around the village and in the pub, and we waited to see who would come. On the night itself, we had a clipboard to gather information about the ‘turns’, to make sure we spread them out across the evening, and at about 7.30pm off we went. With a break to recharge glasses after about 40 minutes (and some wonderful hot sausage rolls courtesy of the landlord), we sang, clapped, listened and laughed our way through the turns and the carol sheets until about 9.30, when we closed the evening with ‘Good night, God bless, and don’t forget the various Christmas services.’
This has now become a village tradition. Last year for the first time we passed round a bucket for donations for a local charity (at the request of the carollers) and raised over £200. The pub was full, with some church folk, some pub regulars, lots of villagers.

Also last year for the first time we responded to requests for ‘something for children’ by offering ‘a little taste of Christmas’ – an afternoon event for children, in the pub, before the Beer & Carols in the evening, with craft activities, party food and a simple Christmas story and a bit of singing. The parents tended to stay in the bar and test the mulled wine, ready for the evening! This too will be repeated this year.
And numbers at the ‘proper’ services have, if anything, gone up. Cheers!


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