Chinese New Year Songs of Praise


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Chinese New Year

Josie d'Arby celebrates Chinese New Year at a magic lantern festival and Stella Parton, sister of Dolly, shows that musical talent and faith run in the family.


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On this week's Songs Of Praise we're in London for the culmination

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of a festival celebrated by a fifth of the world's population.

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It's Chinese New Year, and here in the grounds of Chiswick House

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the lights from over 50 huge lantern displays are drawing in the crowds.

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Later I'll be exploring more of these luminous works of art

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and finding out what the festival means

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for the many Chinese Christians here in the UK.

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I'll be meeting a remarkable man who's using fitness and faith

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to fight his battle with cancer.

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I guess you could describe me as a fitness evangelist.

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# More power to you

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# Speak up and find your voice... #

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And I'm going to be meeting Stella Parton,

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sister of the world-renowned country singer Dolly.

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We're going to be talking about faith, family and music.

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We've uplifting hymns and a performance from

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Alexander Armstrong in a magnificent setting.

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The British Chinese community is the oldest of its kind in Western Europe.

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The first record of a Chinese person in Britain was Shen Fu Tson,

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a Jesuit scholar who came to the court of King James II in the 17th century.

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Many of those that followed were sailors who came here to trade in tea, ceramics and silk.

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And in an area of London called Limehouse

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they established the very first European Chinatown.

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And it's in London we begin our Songs Of Praise

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with our first hymn from the church

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of St Martin-in-the-Fields on Trafalgar Square.

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Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival,

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and its date is determined by the lunar calendar.

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So yesterday marked the beginning of the Year Of The Rooster

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and 15 days of festivities.

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The celebrations traditionally end with a beautiful display

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of lanterns, and here in the grounds of Chiswick House

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that's being done on a grand scale.

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The festival's theme is the Silk Road, an ancient route which

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connected East and West through an exchange of not just goods

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but also architecture, science, art and religion.

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Earlier in the day I caught up with Ian Xiang,

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he's the brains behind the lantern displays,

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all pre-made in China and shipped to the UK in 46 giant containers.

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We have over 67 light boxes to light up the whole festival.

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As you can see the feature behind me is 30 metres long,

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15 metres tall, so it is literally as high as a house.

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So what was it like for you the first time you saw them all lit up?

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Well, it was, because it took me a very long time,

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four years to plan this and make it happen,

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when I saw all the lanterns, you know, the reflections of

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the lights on the water, that really made me very emotional.

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I nearly cried. I said "OK, that's good enough."

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Ian's lantern designs are an expression of his cultural roots,

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but since coming to the UK he has begun another journey.

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I came here about nearly 20 years now, as a student.

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One day my friends took me to church and I got very emotional.

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So at the end of the sermon the pastor said,

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"Anybody want to pray, come forward."

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So I just went forward and I did a prayer.

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That changed my everything.

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Chinese New Year is still very important to me

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because that's where I grew up, it's in my blood,

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but that morning that prayer really changed my life.

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The Houses of Parliament there in all their Chinese lantern glory,

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but of course London is also famous for its marathon, which

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for many people is the achievement of a huge personal milestone.

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Well, how do you fancy running one a month?

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That's what one remarkable man has been doing,

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whilst battling a life-threatening illness. Connie caught up with him.

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Ben Ashworth likes to run...

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..and run...

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and run.

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Ben has totted up 24 marathons in 24 months.

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That's an amazing achievement in itself,

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but astounding when you discover that Ben is battling bowel cancer.

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I'm here almost five years after my diagnosis so, you know,

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I really can't complain.

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I think God is responsible for that.

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Ben was told he had six months to live.

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Since then, in between debilitating chemo treatments and operations,

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Ben has been running to raise money for cancer charities.

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I went to meet Ben in his local park in Preston in Lancashire,

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to find out more about his incredible achievements.

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You've inspired so many people but how would you describe yourself?

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I would always say I'm just a bloke with cancer

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who runs a bit and not even very well.

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I'm not a very fast runner but I just feel like I've got

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the determination and grit, I think, to sort of smash out these marathons

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and there's lots of other people that aren't able so

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I just feel like I ought to do my best to make the use of God's gifts.

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Knowing that you're on limited time,

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how has that affected your faith?

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Has it strengthened? I mean, looking to the future, as such,

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how you feel about all of that now?

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Nobody's got a cancer-free pass, nobody can say that, you know,

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I shouldn't have cancer cos I'm young or I have this or that.

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You know, cancer touches everyone, sadly, but I think, you know,

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I know that God has given me the tools to cope with my disease.

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It sounds really silly but I think in some ways I was built for cancer.

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You know, I've got a really positive attitude towards life,

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I'm always able to see, you know, a good thing in a bad situation.

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Ben's courage has been an inspiration to his friends

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and others he's encountered.

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My daughter spent some time in a wheelchair

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and Ben was really inspirational, motivational,

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in telling her she could get back running again.

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Through his condition and how ill he was,

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he was still there for me in some really dark places.

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That's encouraged me to think about my life and about

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doing something myself to increase my fitness.

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He's just awesome and has just inspired so many people around him.

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Ben's wife, Louise, and his three daughters,

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one of whom is from a previous marriage,

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have helped him cope with the devastating news,

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and have always been Ben's biggest supporters.

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I was three months pregnant when he was first diagnosed

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and then by the time they'd said, "Look, this is terminal,"

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our baby was six months old.

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How has your family coped?

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You ride the waves with it.

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There are times when it's been difficult and then there are

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times when we've just loved life.

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There are times that you can feel like

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God is really far away and feel... you feel quite alone

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but I know that the times when I've leant on him and I've gone to him

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and spoken in prayer that they're the times that I've felt strongest.

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I feel like a broken record,

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I do feel truly blessed to have had them and to have the strength

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that they've given me, and that's all been possible through God.

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What message do you want them to take from all of your efforts?

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That my spirit wasn't dulled, that despite an aggressive disease,

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despite, you know, a lot of difficulties,

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that my spirit endured and, you know,

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I carried on and didn't give up and I did my very, very best.

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For thousands of years people have celebrated festivals of light,

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and in the Christian calendar this week is Candlemas,

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when traditionally candles to be used in the coming year

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are carried in procession and blessed.

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It's a feast full of meaning, which commemorates the time when

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Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem.

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There they were met by a devout elder called Simeon, who

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instantly recognised and declared Jesus to be the light of the world.

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Well, those words are sung now

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in the Nunc Dimittis, which is performed for us

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by Alexander Armstrong, to a setting by Charles Stanford.

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# Lord, now lettest thou thy servant

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# Depart in peace

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# Depart in peace

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# According to thy word

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# For mine eyes

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# For mine eyes

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# Have seen thy salvation

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# Which thou hast prepared

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# Which thou hast prepared

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# Before the face of all people

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# To be a light

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# To lighten the Gentiles

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# To be a light

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# To lighten the Gentiles

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# And to be the glory

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# And to be the glory

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# Of thy people Israel

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# To be the glory

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# Of thy people Israel

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# Lord, now lettest

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# Thou thy servant

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# Depart

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# In peace. #

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The celebration of Chinese New Year is

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a colourful and vibrant addition to the British calendar

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and for the Chinese community it's an important link

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to their heritage, but one in five Chinese people living the UK would

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say that they're Christian, so what does the festival mean for them?

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Jackie and Holly are members of a Chinese Pentecostal church,

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and I joined them at home as they prepare to celebrate the New Year.

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Holly, thank you for letting me join you this evening.

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This is actually my first-ever Chinese New Year celebration meal.

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-Really?

-So I've no idea what to expect.

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Well, my pleasure, then.

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Well, we'll cook some traditional Chinese dishes.

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Well, dumplings, definitely.

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Try to make it a round shape.

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'Holly grew up in China, where she was taught not to believe in God.'

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Yes, this is a beautiful crescent shape.

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'In 2002, she came to the UK, where she met her future husband,

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'a Christian.'

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Good job!

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Really? You're very kind.

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I met with Jackie, then he said to me that,

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"Do you want to come to church with me one day?"

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When I stepped in I saw people there,

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they were raising their hands in worship.

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Strange.

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And you could see people weeping,

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and I started to weep as well.

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In school you were taught there's no God in this world.

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It sticks in your head.

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My mind said to me, "Holly, what are you doing, why are you crying?"

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But my heart was really, like, melting.

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Now I know it's God's love.

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He melted my heart.

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So how does the way you celebrate New Year differ

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now that you're a Christian?

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Our grandma, or grandparents,

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-they used to worship idols.

-OK.

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We know that, well, it's actually God, he gave you everything,

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and he's the provider so then we worship God, of course,

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and we share food, with fellowship and because Chinese New Year

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is all about reunion and harmony and give thanks.

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THEY ALL CHATTER

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-Happy New Year!

-Happy New Year.

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Happy New Year.

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They do say that musical talent can sometimes run in the family,

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and our next guest certainly seems to be proof of that.

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If I said we're going to hear from

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a country and western singer now, whose surname is Parton,

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you'd probably think I was talking about Dolly.

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Well, actually, her sister Stella is also a singer in her own right, too.

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And Aled has been to meet her.

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# Do your best and show the rest... #

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Dolly and Stella Parton began performing together

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as young children in the 1950s.

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Six decades and thousands of songs later

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they still share the same love of country music.

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# More power to you

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# Stand up and make a choice

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# More power to you... #

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Stella, really great to meet you.

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It must have been quite a creative family.

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We were, I mean, we grew up on a farm in the mountains of

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East Tennessee so we had to make our own entertainment and

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our mother was very creative and so was my dad and my mother would

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always say, "If it doesn't hurt anybody, go ahead and try it,"

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so that's where she gave us permission

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to be as creative as we wanted to be.

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Were you brought up through faith?

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Very much. My faith would have to be the strongest part of my survival.

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What do you mean by that?

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Well, I think that if you lose hope then you have lost everything

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and I became a Christian by the time I was five.

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I remember praying and saying prayers for healing

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for different family members and things of this sort by the time

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I was five so, to me, I've always been a Christian.

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I don't know what it would be like not to know

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a relationship with Jesus.

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'Stella spends her time performing and sharing her faith

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'in concerts around the US,

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'but for the last decade she's been creating an album with her

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'own versions of Dolly's songs, as a personal tribute to her sister.'

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You've been performing all your life,

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-I think you've released something like 31 albums.

-Yes.

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Why now this one?

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I think of it as paying respect to her contribution

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and I love her songwriting and this is my contribution

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and my expression of love to her.

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What did you say when you first mentioned the idea to her?

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She loved the idea. As a matter of fact, she kind of kept asking

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about it because I might not finished it.

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She said, "I thought you were working on an album of my songs?"

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So, I said, "Well, I'm working on it."

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-You do a great impression of her, by the way.

-I'm pretty good.

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Tell us about the song that you're going to perform for us.

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Keep On Walking is a song that I wrote,

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it's on my Testimony album, I just felt like it was

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a good one to sing at church and I just thought it was

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a good story about, you know, Scripture, you know,

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keeping the faith, you know, just keep the faith.

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Just keep on going and you have to go through the door,

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you know, see what's on the other side of the door.

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# Peter stepped into the water

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# On the Sea of Galilee

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# Jesus said to Peter

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# You can come to me

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# Peter cried to Jesus

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# Can't you see I'm sinkin' down?

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# Jesus said to Peter

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# I'm not going to let you drown

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# Keep your eyes on me

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# Keep a-walkin' on in faith

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# Step-by-step believing

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# I won't let you lose your way

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# Don't you let nobody stop you

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# No matter what you think you see

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# You gotta keep on walkin'

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# And keep your eyes on me

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# The disciples got so worried

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# When the storm was all around

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# But the Lord kept right on sleeping

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# He did not hear a sound

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# The disciples started shouting

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# Lord, do something if you will

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# The Lord stretched out his gentle hand

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# And he said, peace, be still

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# Keep your eyes on me

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# Keep a-walkin' on in faith

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# Step-by-step believing

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# I won't let you lose your way

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# Don't you let nobody stop you

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# No matter what you think you see

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# You gotta keep on walkin'

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# And keep your eyes on me

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# You gotta wade into the water

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# Lose the fear that you might drown

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# Walk out on the water

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# As if it was dry ground

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# Keep your eyes on me

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# Keep a-walkin' on in faith

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# Step-by-step believing

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# I won't let you lose your way

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# Don't you let nobody stop you

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# No matter what you think you see

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# You gotta keep on walkin'

0:30:530:30:55

# And keep your eyes on me

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# You gotta keep on

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# Keep on

0:31:020:31:03

# Keep on walkin'

0:31:030:31:05

# Keep your eyes on

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# Keep on, keep on, keep on walking

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# Keep your eyes on me

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# Peter stepped into the water

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# On the Sea of Galilee. #

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Next week we're in Hampshire at the home of novelist Jane Austen,

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to celebrate the life and writing of this clergyman's daughter.

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But our final hymn today is one by Charles Wesley -

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Christ, Whose Glory Fills The Skies.

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A fitting way to mark new beginnings.

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Josie d'Arby celebrates Chinese New Year at a magic lantern festival and we meet Stella Parton, sister of Dolly, who shows that musical talent and faith run in the family. Plus a performance of the Nunc Dimittis from Alexander Armstrong.

1.Let All the World in Every Corner Sing from St-Martin-in-the-Fields, London 2.Christ Be Our Light from All Saints Church, Cheltenham 3.Great Is Thy Faithfulness from New Community Church, Southampton 4.Nunc Dimittis performed by Alexander Armstrong and the Royal Holloway Chapel Organist and Choir 5.10 000 Reasons (Bless The Lord) performed by Steve Thompson 6.Keep On Walkin' performed by Stella Parton 7.Christ, Whose Glory Fills The Skies from Trinity Church, Gosforth.