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Hallo again to all.

Ho hum. The Church of England now has a woman bishop (see our News Centre). Many other provinces have had women bishops for so long that they are now retired women bishops. Or, as we prefer to think of them, retired bishops. We're sure this sordid conflict in the C of E will continue for another generation, but not longer.

Today was Advent IV. Our last chance to hear and sing Advent music in church. Our music director sneaked in a Christmas carol today, in among the Advent music. Knowing what a staunch traditionalist he is, we ambled up to talk to him after the service, to ask him about his thinking about including Christmas music in a before-Christmas liturgy. His answer was very thought-provoking.

Family singing carolsIn past generations, children have learned Christmas carols at school and at home. Schools had Christmas pageants. Music teachers taught Christmas music every December. Children returned from school to a home in which Christmas music was taught and sung and played. Yes, in our childhood we did know families that played only Advent music before Christmas, but ours wasn't one of them, and we didn't have any close friends whose houses echoed with the sound of 'Hark! a Thrilling Voice is Sounding' instead of 'Hark! the Herald Angels Sing'. When we children belted out Christmas carols on the way home from school, at least half of our childhood friends would sing 'Hark! the Herald Angels sing, Beechams Powders are the thing. One for women, two for men, Half for children under ten' and giggle a lot.*

Parodies only work when the parody's audience is very familiar with the song being parodied. Every child in the school we attended when our age was measured in single digits knew all of the words to the Harold Angel song.

No longer so. Many schools no longer teach music, and the music teachers who remain are sensitive to the multi-ethnic nature of the student body. Teaching Christmas songs in a school that has non-Christian students is in our modern world no longer considered appropriate. So it doesn't happen.

Ecclesiofuturologists who lament that 'the church is always one generation away from extinction' might note that the singing of Christmas music as an integral part of family life will probably be extinct before churches themselves are. What can we do? Many parents still drag their children to Sunday School, at least while those children are still young enough to be draggable. Can Sunday School during Advent spend time teaching children Christmas songs?

How does your parish address the problem of most children not learning Christmas carols? Does it work? Write a Letter to the Editor and share your information. If you have a solution to this problem, you may be confident that many people around the world want to know about it.

See you next week. And please don't try to smoke a rubber cigar.

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21 December 2014

*Not a one of them had any idea what Beechams Powders were.

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