Around 400 parliamentarians, staff and visitors gathered in Westminster Hall for the 29th annual Parliamentary Carol Service, hosted by John Bercow, the Speaker, with music provided by musicians from the International Staff Band (Bandmaster Stephen Cobb).
Territorial Commander Commissioner John Matear and Commissioner Betty Matear attended the event, supported by Chief Secretary Colonel David Hintonand Colonel Sylvia Hinton. Major Noel Wright from Territorial Headquarters led the service.
After playing introductory music, including Christmas Joy and The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy, the ISB accompanied several carols, including “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” and “Once, in Royal David’s City”.
Before the Speaker brought the reading from John 1:1–14, he described the carol service as a “very precious fixture in the parliamentary calendar.” Mr. Bercow went on to express his gratitude to the Salvation Army, saying, “Each and every one of us owes a great debt of gratitude to the Salvation Army, not only for their leadership and inspiration in respect of this event, but everything that this magnificent organization does day in, day out ... throughout the year to translate care from a word to a deed.”
During the prayer time the Territorial Commander gave thanks to God for the gift of Jesus and prayed for wisdom, discernment, courage and direction for government leaders. After the service, he explained why he thought the carol service was an important event, saying, “It is a privilege to come into this heart of democracy and to lead members of both houses in remembering the good news of Christmas. We pray that the Lord will use this half hour of worship.”
Lord Foster of Bishop Auckland, who is a Salvationist, organized the first parliamentary carol service in 1983. He remarked that the event is “crucial” for the Salvation Army and Members of Parliament. “People love singing the carols, even if they have no faith,” he said. “This service marks a wonderful beginning to Christmas.”
The Speaker’s Chaplain, the Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, pronounced the benediction, before the band concluded the service with The Carollers.
International Staff Band web site, original report by C. B.