Blackburn Carol Service 2016

It was not a straight forward journey for the coach load of members coming to the service who were delayed by sheep in the motorway, but arriving by train as I did to get to the Cathedral must have been one of the easiest journeys of the three national services.

Coming out of the station you cross the road and walk by an interesting modern statue, ‘Grandmother and Child’, of a woman who is holding the hand of a small boy who is reaching for a teddy that he has dropped. You then pass by a much older statue of Queen Victoria and find yourself at the cathedral complex.

Although the youngest of the three cathedrals we visited for the national carol services this year (it only became one in 1926) there is a long and interesting history of worship on the site. It is said to date back to the foundation of a place of worship there in 596 which was associated with very early Christianity in this country. Wood then stone buildings followed and in the early1800s it was decided to rebuild the church completely. The church built following that decision now forms the nave of the cathedral. Building has continued since then and we arrived just as the latest phase was completed. This is the Cloister Garth, the first cloisters to be built at a British cathedral for over 500 years. Going up to the cathedral we could see an airy garden space which included a fountain which looked a very peaceful place to stop and rest.

The Cathedral is also very light and airy and there was a lot to look at whilst waiting for the service to begin. Like Ely it has a lantern tower and the stained glass here looked bright and vibrant, even on this rather dull day. We admired the Georgian ceiling in the nave and searched for the Green Man roof boss, a pre-Christian symbol found in many cathedrals which Canon Dr Ian Stockton had told us about when he was describing the history of the Cathedral. And we also admired the huge crown of thorns above the altar.

We were all welcomed to the Cathedral, along with the Mayor and Mayoress of Blackburn, Councillor Hussain Akhtar and his daughter Mrs Shaheen Akhtat, all of the National Trustees and former chairmen Maggie Chiltern MBE, Pauline Myers and Sue Smith OBE, by the said Canon Dr Ian Stockton, Canon Chancellor. He was a very appropriate person to do this as part of his role is supporting the ministry to visitors.

The service continued by the telling of the Christmas story through traditional bible readings, modern interpretations from the viewpoint of people in the story, songs by the choir and well known carols for the members to join with. Some of the Current National Trustees and former Chairmen gave the readings and the South Manchester Federation Choir were beautiful to listen to as they sang a variety of songs and carols which gave a further dimension to the readings.

Councillor Hussain Akhtar asked to say a few words at the end of the service and firstly he thanked TG for choosing to come to Blackburn. He then said that he and his daughter had been very interested to find out about TG and he had been impressed about what he had learnt of the organisation and told us to 'keep up the good work'.

The Trustees caused a bit of a hold up when they went to the back of the Cathedral to say their goodbyes to the members and wish them season's greetings, as the Mayor wanted a photo with them as he was leaving. But this was soon cleared and as well as talking to the members, the Trustees also wanted to say thank you to Kelly Jones, National Events Organiser, for the wonderful job she did in the organisation of the three National Services. And it was also an opportunity to answer the question asked by one of the Vergers, 'What exactly is TG?'

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