SUNDERLAND Minister was packed out for the Echo’s annual carol service.
The service has become a key fixture in Wearside’s advent calendar and this year’s service attracted representatives from the city’s civic, academic and business communities, with readings from city council leader Councillor Paul Watson, university vice-chancellor Peter Fidler and Mayoress Councillor Barbara McClennan, alongside Echo columnists Linda Colling and Dr Mick Thurlbeck and Stuart Birkett, managing director of the Echo’s parent company Northeast Press.
Acting editor Richard Ord welcomed the worshippers and urged them to join in heartily: “There is no finer sound than carols ringing out in the Minister,” said Richard, “and the sound will help drown out my terrible singing.”
This year’s service was a mix of the traditional and the new, with the Minister choir leading the congregation in such well-loved carols as Good Rest You Merry Gentlemen, Once in Royal David’s City, Ding Dong Merrily on High and, of course, Little Donkey, penned by Mackem Eric Boswell.
And there was a more modern twist on Christmas music, too, courtesy of the Echo’s link-up with the Bunker art studio.
Soloist Ani Sandwith performed on keyboard for a moving rendition of In the Bleak Midwinter, while Jim Maynard and Adrian Woodland – aka duo The Good Child – performed their own take on an old favourite in the form of We Three Kings of Hartlepool Are.
And there were laughs aplenty, courtesy of up-and-coming Sunderland actress Lauren Waine, who performed Wearside playwright Ed Waugh’s own take on the Christmas story, A Mackem Nativity.
But the real meaning of Christmas was never far away, with the Minister’s Canon Provost, the Reverend Sheila Bamber, giving a sermon which reminded her audience of exactly what had brought them together.
“God invites us to trust each other with our deepest hopes and fears and to co-operate with Him in making the world a place He and we hope to see,” she said.
“God’s love is for life, not just for Christmas.”