500 people attended the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols of St Nicholas's Anglican Church in Helsinki which was held in the Lutheran Cathedral in the centre of the city. The Anglican Carol Service is a major attraction in the Advent season in the Finnish capital, and is well attended by people of all nationalities and church affiliations. In the square below the Cathedral, Helsinki's Christmas Market is held. I am certain that there are also many who attend the carol service, who have been browsing around the market and who are drawn for some reason to enter the Church. Some who may have no formal Christian connection come perhaps for aesthetic reasons to begin with, or who are tentatively exploring the Christian faith, and find at the Carol Service, a warm and welcoming space for that exploration.
Our priest at St Nicholas's, the Revd Tuomas Mäkipää, deliberately keeps the format of this service very traditional, even maintaining the scripture readings from the Authorised Version of the Bible. The number who attend seems to suggest that this time-honoured liturgy can still satisfy the spiritual needs of many people. In an age of "contemporary worship", (whatever that is), we need to acknowledge that many are hungry for what this service seems able to provide: a simple and accessible, recounting of the mystery of God's plan for our salvation which culminates in the incarnation of his Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. The excellent music provided by the St Nicholas Singers, and the familiar, yet deeply theological hymns and carols, provide an atmosphere of calm and reflection on the deep meaning of Christmas, amidst a frenetically-paced world. The lessons and carols speak for themselves - no sermon needs to be added to open up the meaning of the sacred story.
|HE Ambassador Sarah Price|
|Left to right: Bishop Irja, yours truly, Metropolitan Ambrosius, Fr Tuomas, Fr Maximus|