Monday 24 December 2012

Divisive Carols

Every year it is the same dilemma. Why do we sing carols that celebrate something we do not believe in the rest of the year? I used to exempt myself - see everyone in the New Year. Now I do the music, so I grind my teeth at what I don't believe.

The Unitarian carols are shorter and half a myth, but they don't escape the myth. So you sing along, enjoy, join in, and the explanation is something to do with the birth of the universal baby, or a baby that can be representative of new life and hope. Unlike Anglicans, we sing ahead of Christmas in line with the commercial version, so Advent gets a mention as 'preparation' but tends to get lost in the carols.

This Sunday before Christmas Day we were given the carols neat and orthodox: full length and all the trinitarian words. The myth was in full.
The service taker, one of our own, didn't have the hymn book or carol book at home, and decided to provide everything for me, when I have them all from both carol book and hymn book. We sang to Anglican and Salvation Army choirs, which meant too slow, too fast at times and too long. I still had to edit them to equalise the volume levels and put them to CDs and this when I'd built up edited stock during the year. The service proved to be divisive and I had to say I accept no credit and no blame as people offered me praise and criticism. Experimental and different services are to be welcomed, but the assumption here was all could join in and enjoy, when some did not. We have Jewish and Pagans and humanists in the congregation (including myself) for whom these carols are basically over the top and I wasn't saved from any effort despite good intentions. (The work had been done - roll on next year then!)

The Hull church has two carol services, in fact. The first one in Mid-December is also for the Leonard Chamberlain Trust residents and is a straight run myth (as in readings) but using our carols. A minister comes and the sermon usually tells the folks how we understand the carols. The second service is one where it can be 'what we do with it' and you might see a twist in the tale. This year the twist in the tail was to go all hardcore with doctrine and the myth. Well it serves to know what the myth is (from the hardcore version) and that the duplicity of the occasion is not overcome simply by softcoring the carols

The essential problem is we don't do things collectively but hand out jobs and have domains. I've asked for back up with music preparation over and again. The day I go under a bus is the day they don't have hymns and yet every hymn from Hymns for Living is covered, all the 'white' carols and much from Sing Your Faith.

Next Sunday the carols get dropped except those that have a more general spread. It's more about New Year as a thing in itself. My own new hymn will get an outing at the end: that's NB 006 My Oh My write alt which is to Slade's tune and draws on some of their words. I watched a BBC 4 programme on Slade and as soon as My Oh My was featured I said to myself, "That's a hymn." So I made it one and it is consistent with Unitarianism, as is my hymn NB 005 Cassatio write piano.

We join in with this Christimas stuff and give less weight to Easter. Easter doesn't have the run up because Lent only gets a mention like Advent. Christians regard Easter as the key festival, whereas for Unitarians it is more easily transferable to rebirth and nature. It is easy to ignore Easter. Some of us use Easter to demonstrate biblical criticism and the role of history in a way that doesn't happen with the Christmas myth. We don't go gooey-eyed at Easter.

Unitarians are inconsistent and even duplicious at Christmas. Unitarian romanticism and transcendentalism has become its non-rational Paganism and, really, we ought to focus on that at both Yuletide and Spring. We can surely find more consistent carols with our outlook. Although we are pluralistic, carol services are a means to discover the limits of pluralism and one basis of identity, and it shows that we have a different and more strained relationship with Christianity than we do with other faith expressions to which we have become more charitable.

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