by Goh Eck Kheng
In 2011, CCMC started offering a contemporary Service of Nine Lessons and Carols, based on the traditional service held in King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. Since then, our church has presented the service built around passages of scripture which tell the Gospel story in Old and New Testament text, in various styles, including, jazz, pageantry and an international theme. These services were held in the weeks leading to Christmas.
This year’s Service of Lessons and Carols was held, for the first time, as a Christmas Day service. It was attended by 760, the largest congregation for CCMC since the start of the Covid pandemic.
As Lee Shu-Lyn, Music and Worship Chair, said, “The Christmas Day service is a meaningful tapestry depicting how God has, through it all, kept us united as one Voice. Different parts, but one Body; one Church in Christ."
There would be, besides soloists and small choral groups, four choirs: Combined Services Choir, the new Covenant Contemporary Voices, Covenant Kids Choir, and the Hallelujah-SG Choir from the Japanese ministry.
When the Japanese choir was asked if they could sing My Peace I Give Unto You in English, its contact person, Yuka Kwan, said, “The song is so beautiful and touching."
By 2 October, the Combined Services Choir began rehearsals under conductor Lily Wong. On the same day, the Covenant Contemporary Voices was launched and recruitment started for the Covenant Kids Choir which had their first practice on 6 November. Both choirs were conducted by Jessica Irawan. In mid-October, a key moment in the service was developed: the shofar - a Jewish musical instrument made of a ram’s horn - would be blown to introduce the proclamation of John 1: 1-14. In biblical times, the shofar was played, among other purposes, to proclaim the anointing of a new king. A new Christmas tree was bought and CCMC Property Chairman Tim Tan’s heartwarming idea of asking members to each bring an ornament to decorate the tree was taken up. Eventually, 10 people donated ornaments: angels made by African craftsmen from Tim, a couple of Georg Jensen collectibles from Tan Ming Ying, a drummer boy drum from Shu Lyn, a dozen washi paper eggs from Lee Foong Ming, angels from Ps Gwee, beaded balls and tinsel from the Goh family, baubles from church staff Aileen Wong, Zoe Sim and Mable Leong and her family, and a stuffed cloth star made by Miriam Wun. The tree was filled with these and existing decorations from church. The Floral Committee ordered pots of poinsettia to line the foot of the stage. As per CCMC tradition, congregants were invited to register to take a pot after the service to bless the homebound. The beautiful arrangement of advent candles in Christmas colours was also the skillful work of ladies from the committee. Readers to proclaim the nine passages of scripture that anchored the service were found in the various communities of CCMC: men, women, children and youth. With the design of the service in place, the team was completed by the return of Maureen Wang as Music & Worship Lay Ministry Staff to manage the running of the service. Maureen’s first day of work was 1 December, but the day before, Li-Hwei sent this message to the team chat group: “Haha - this is the Lord's sense of humour. I'm at Q cafe on a table next to Maureen. I welcomed her back to CCMC already. She's with her Wesley Chair having a farewell meal.” Some two weeks before Christmas, another familiar voice returned to CCMC. The organ in the auditorium was back in service, cleaned inside and out and sounding like new again – just in time to play the joyous postlude of the Christmas service of carols and choirs. Just like the harmonious music of the organ, designing and offering the service required much coordination and collaboration. As Mabel said, “What seems simple is not, and it takes a group effort to wrangle everything and everyone together.”