The Southern Area Carol Service has always been one of the high points of the year for me. It is one of a very few Masonic events where the whole of Southern Area genuinely comes together to celebrate this fraternity that we all hold so dear. This year the Carol Service took place at St Peter’s Church in Ashton, as near as can be opposite Ashton Masonic Hall, although this year the service was hosted by Audenshaw District. It doesn’t really seem to matter which District hosts the service, the Church is always packed and we all thoroughly enjoy ourselves singing the old favourite and familiar Carols that we have been singing since our youth.
We were honoured by the presence of WBro John Pearson, our APGM and EComp Eddie Barlow, our APGP, who both attended, along with their wives, and enjoyed the singing, the readings and the familial festive spirit that filled the Church. WBro Gerry Hodson, Audenshaw District Chairman was also present with his wife, as was Ashton & Mossley Chairman WBro Peter Douthwaite, though his wife saw all too little of him during the service. As ever, WBro Douthwaite bustled around organising the Parade of Banners, the Collection and the return of the banners at the end.
The service began with the parade of Lodge Banners, on this occasion nine of our Lodges, some no longer active but still remembered, were represented. I’m not sure how often a Lodge’s banner is paraded into Lodge these days, but it is a rare event to see one being paraded outside of a Masonic Hall. If you look at photographs from the latter part of the nineteenth century you will often see parades of worthy Masons marching through the streets, following their banner, but those days, sadly, seem to have passed. It was wonderful to see the banners being paraded through the Church and standing proudly behind the Communion Table through the Service.
We sang the hymns that we all know and love, this year, again, enhanced by three Christmas favourites sung very beautifully by Peter Lee, who is himself a lapsed member of our fraternity, and accompanied by the wonderful John Miles, who is not, but who can be seen in all sorts of musical roles throughout Tameside, especially training and conducting the Tameside Festival Chorus. Together they gave us a most appealing and very sweet sound to remember. We also heard a thought provoking homily from Reverend Roger Farnworth, the Team Rector of the Parish of the Good Shepherd which encompasses all of Ashton’s central Churches. It is good to think about the real message of Christmas.
Then the service was over for another year and a good number of congregation took themselves off to the Broadoak for what has become the traditional end to the Carol Service. WBro Don Roberts continues to organise a festive Dinner for all those who wish to take part. Needless to say, a good time was had by all.
There are lots of photographs from the Carol Service and from the Dinner afterwards, far more than
there is space to show on this webpage, but you can see them all by following this weblink.