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Carol Service at St Botolphs 5th December 2007

The Sennocke Concert Choir from Sevenoaks School in front of the high altar

Very kindly the Master and Wardens of the Worshipful Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders invited the Company to participate in their Carol Service at St Botolph's Church Aldgate. Again our host was the Reverend Brian Lee and old friend with the sermon being given by the Right Reverend Richard Llewellin. We were also very fortunate to have the Sennocke Concert Choir from Sevenoaks School to lead the singing.

From 6pm the party began to gather at the back of the Church. The Officers of the Company donned their gowns to be ready for the service which began promptly at 6.30pm with the procession led on this occasion by our Company Beadle Paul Tredgett.

Michael Wren, Simon Leach and Hugh Colver

Brian Lee at supper

Prior to the Service a Band of Bell ringers, including a number of Bowyers, led by Paul Williams manned the eight bells and rang out a greeting too all.

The Sennocke Concert Choir from Sevenoaks School in front of the high altar The service then began with the traditional hymn Once in Royal David's City followed by the Bidding prayer of welcome read by Brian Lee. After a beautiful performance of the carol 'The Cherry Tree' the Master read the second lesson describing the visit of the shepherds.

Richard Llewellin's address was thought provoking and totally appropriate to Christmastide. Opening with a comment regarding 'a bow shot at a venture' he briefly turned to the charitable work of the Tobaccos Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders. Using as an example the Company's support for people with handicaps he took as his theme that not only individuals suffered with mental and physical handicap but communities and nations were handicapped also by their circumstance. He stressed in particular the Palestinian people.

Drawing on his experience of a recent visit to the Holy Land he described his feelings when staying in a hotel overlooking Manger Square in Bethlehem and visiting the cave in the Church of the Nativity where Christ was born. At four in the morning the words from the Hymn 'O Little Town of Bethlehem how still we see the lie' came into his mind.

The Master and Hugh Colver

Theo Spring (far right) and Lesley and John Ellery

He then made telling points to illustrate the concept of community and national handicap. Firstly Jesus was a Jew and over the centuries the Jewish people had been subjected to anti Semitic words and actions; much of this behaviour could be laid at the door of the Christian religion. Secondly the Holy Family had to flee from Palestine to escape the wrath of Herod. Similarly Palestinian people had to flee their homes from Israeli aggression, but their desire to return exemplified by their keeping the keys to their former homes on cord around their necks. Even the town of Bethlehem was to-day surrounded by the exclusion wall to prevent their return to their former homes. Lastly Jesus was a Jew and if he had only been a nomadic rabbinic preacher he would not have had a run in with the authorities. However he challenged powerful individuals and vested interests and this led to his death on the cross and eventual resurrection.

To-day in our increasingly secular society one tries to place Jesus in a box and take him out on Sundays and Christmas. However the spirit of the risen Christ is strong and he will not stay in his box, he will always be there and sneak up on one and remind you of the rights and wrongs of a issue.

After the address we sang the traditional carol 'O Come All You Faithful', sadly not in Latin during which there was a collection. This followed by the Blessing and the final traditional hymn 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing'. During which the Officers of the Company processed to the back of the Church.

Members to the congregation then mixed to-gether and shared some wine before dining on cannelloni and salad followed by an excellent mince pie.

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