Archbishop Bernard Longley, the newly appointed Co-Chairman of ARCIC (The Anglican Roman-Catholic International Commission) set up by Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, gave a joint blessing with the Anglican Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, at the end of the annual Civic Carol Service held in Birmingham Cathedral on Monday 20 December.
The Archbishop of Birmingham, a joint President of Birmingham Churches Together with Bishop David Urquhart and Major Samuel Edgar – Free Churches Moderator (Divisional Commander, Salvation Army), was accompanied in the procession by the Anglican Bishop of Aston, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson.
The service booklet contained a welcome from the Lord Mayor of Birmingham Councillor Len Gregory. The Lord Mayor wrote: “I am delighted to welcome you to the City of Birmingham Christmas Carol Service in the wonderful setting of Birmingham Cathedral. Today we have an opportunity for our friends, our neighbours and the people of this great city to come together to celebrate Christmas and spread a message of goodwill, peace and joy.”
The Lord Mayor added: “This Carol Service will provide us with a moment to reflect on all that is good in people and to renew our hopes for the future, for our loved ones and the citizens of Birmingham.”
The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Mike Whitby, Lead of Birmingham City Council, Councillor Paul Tilsely, MBE, Deputy Leader, and Councillor Sir Albert Bore, Lead of the Opposition, were among the city luminaries who read the lessons.
The sermon was preached by the the new Dean of Birmingham, the Very Revd Catherine Ogle. The Birmingham Cathedral Choir under its distinguished Director of Music, Mr Marcus Huxley was magnificent. Their rending of “Ding, Dong! Merrily on heigh – ” was unforgettable.
After a joyful, uplifting and memorable hour long service it was out into the bitterly cold snow covered city centre streets to a reception hosted by Wragge & Co, the well-known Birmingham law firm.
Here in the warm, Archbishop Bernard Longley, Canon Gerry Breen, the new Cathedral Dean of the nearby Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, and the Revd Nigel di Castiglione, the new Vicar of the evangelical Anglican Parish Church of St the Baptist in Harborne, a suburb in south west Birmingham, had an opportunity to meet civic leaders, and members of the Birmingham business and professional community.
Later, Archbishop Bernard Longley, Chairman of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Department for Dialogue and Unity, entertained the Revd Nigel di Castiglione, Canon Gerry Breen and myself to tea before he recorded two special Christmas Messages for BBC Radio WM.