Hymns for All Seasons Songs of Praise


Hymns for All Seasons

Pam Rhodes talks to school children about the Christian calendar and chooses suitable hymns for the whole year.


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For everything, there is a season.

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That's what the Bible says and certainly from a very early age,

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our lives are governed by the seasons

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and I don't just mean the weather.

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I'm here at Forty Hill School,

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where in common with many colleges and schools, their term times

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and holidays can trace their origins back to the Christian calendar.

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You only have to take a look through any calendar or diary to see

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that throughout the year, there are countless days of celebration

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and tradition and of course, plenty of hymns for every one of them.

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This week - hymnologist and author Gordon Giles,

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the children of Forty Hill School in Enfield,

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and congregations from all over the country

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with a selection of hymns that take us right through the Christian year.

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In many ways, the Christian story starts towards the end of each year

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because the season of Advent looks forward to Christmas

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and to the birth of Christ and even beyond that

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to the day when Christ will come again.

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Well, once Christmas Day is over the commercial world is inclined

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to think that the season of Christ's birth is over too.

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But you've heard the song. Christmas is a feast that lasts for 12 days

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and that is just the start, as the children here know.

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The Christian year is full of stories.

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The three wise men came to visit.

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We call that season Epiphany.

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Epiphany.

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-Epiphany.

-Yes. Can you say that too?

-Epiphany.

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Epiphany.

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Epiphany.

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-And then who came on Epiphany?

-The three Kings.

-Yes. Lovely.

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I've drawn the three wise men in big cloaks and a camel.

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They saw a star and because they studied the stars

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they followed the star to Jesus and they gave him gifts.

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They gave him myrrh, frankincense and gold.

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Gordon Giles is vicar of St Mary Magdalene in Enfield.

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He is the author of several books on hymnody.

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The Magi, the Kings, whatever you want to call them,

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they bring gold, frankincense and myrrh

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and show Jesus' kingship

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and the revelation of his life and ministry and purpose,

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not only to the Jews, of whom he was the Messiah,

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but to the gentiles, to the whole world.

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And that's what we celebrate at Epiphany.

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And then on February 2nd, because it is 40 days after Christmas,

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we have what some people call Candlemas

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or what we might call the presentation of Christ in the temple.

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That's when Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem,

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as the law requires, and offer a sacrifice of two turtle doves.

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That is where the turtle doves in the carol come from.

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Then, they immediately meet Anna and Simeon, these two old people

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who have waited for the redemption of Israel and the seeing of Jesus.

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And we have that lovely Canticle of Simeon,

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Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.

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And that is the departing in peace, if you like, of the Christmas season.

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Some people keep their Christmas decorations up that long,

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although many take them down on 12th night, around Epiphany.

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The six weeks of Lent leading up to Easter time remind us

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that Christ was tested beyond human endurance

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during his 40 days in the wilderness

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but that our faith too is constantly challenged and put to the test.

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Lent begins on Ash Wednesday,

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when many people will have the sign of the cross

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made on their foreheads in ash to remind them

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and us, all of us, that we are mortal and that we must turn away from sin.

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From dust we were made and to dust we shall return.

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We then enter the season of Lent, a season of penitence,

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a season of saying sorry to God,

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and for many people,

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that also involves giving something up or maybe taking something on.

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Some people don't like to say the word "hallelujah" during Lent.

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They feel it should be more austere

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and they save that word up for the great Easter celebrations.

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Lent is when we're getting ready for Easter.

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Do either of you two know what Lent is?

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When Jesus is in the desert and he thinks about stuff.

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Jesus went into the desert

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and he was thinking about whether he should turn his back on God.

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The Devil came and said,

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"If you are hungry, turn these rocks into bread."

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And Jesus said, "You can't live on bread alone."

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I think he would have been feeling confused and worried

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and I'll be thinking the same too.

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The Devil said that he could have all of the cities and be the king.

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And he is saying here, "I'm so tempted to say yes to the Devil

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"but I can't because God would be furious."

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-What sort of things do you give up?

-Playing my PlayStation a lot.

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Sometimes I give up chocolate but I find it quite hard

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because I really like chocolate.

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Erm... Chocolate.

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I try to argue less with my brother but it's pretty hard

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because he gets on my nerves a lot.

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The culmination of our Christian year is Holy Week,

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when each day marks Christ's journey to the cross.

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His pain, his obedience, his sacrifice for us

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are all poured out in heartfelt hymns of sorrow and gratitude.

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Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week.

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It begins on a great high as Jesus enters Jerusalem,

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coming down the Mount of Olives, palm crosses are waved now,

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they were palm branches in those days of course, hailing the Messiah King.

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"Hosanna to the son of David", the crowd shouted.

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But it wasn't to last, of course.

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Soon, they were changing their tune, as it were,

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and calling for Jesus to be crucified.

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But before that happened, we have the Last Supper.

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He took bread and wine and likened himself to the Passover lamb

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in what we now call the Eucharist, the communion, the mass.

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He also gave the disciples a new commandment,

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the great commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

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That is a commandment that is very important to the Christian faith.

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The other thing he did, of course, was to wash the disciples' feet

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to reveal a servant nature that we should all learn from and follow.

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# This is our God

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# The servant King

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# He calls us now to follow him

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# To bring our lives

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# As a daily offering. #

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And then Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed

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and all his disciples fell asleep.

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Judas Iscariot kissed him on the cheek as a sign,

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to come and... that's the one they need to take.

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Servant girls were asking Peter about if they knew that guy

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and he kept denying and denying and denying.

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Then follows the crucifixion, the saddest day of the year.

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Known, perhaps ironically, as Good Friday.

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It was a very sad day, out of which create good comes.

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I feel happy and sad.

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I feel sad because Jesus had to die

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and I feel happy because Jesus gave his life for all of us.

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Jesus didn't have to do that,

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but he went through all the hardship just for us, to save our sins.

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Well, you need to understand that Jesus died for us and he saved us.

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And God was happy about that because he was forgiving us

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for all that we have done bad.

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The hymn by William Walsham How, 'It Is A Thing Most Wonderful',

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was written for children.

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The crucifixion, the story of Jesus' death is a very difficult story

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for all of us to come to terms with.

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The pain of crucifixion was just unbearable.

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What Walsham How did was to write the hymn as if from the perspective

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of a child standing at the foot of the cross and seeing it happen.

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We might say in our day and age

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that no child should have to see anything like that,

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a terrible crucifixion scene.

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But the spirituality of any of us coming to the cross as children

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and trying to just get to grips with the pain, the terror,

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the significance of what is going on

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when Christ died for me on the cross and bled for me.

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This is what this hymn is about.

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And after the sorrow of Christ's crucifixion

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comes the joy of his resurrection.

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Easter is, of course,

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the most important feast in the Christian year

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and it's marked by celebration and tradition and pageantry,

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not just in words and music,

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but in the decoration of both the building...

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..and the clergy too.

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Clerical vestments aren't just for show.

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They are decorated with Christian symbols and often with images

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of significance in the life and faith of the priest who wears them.

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But the colours robing the clergy or the altar

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at different times of year also have meaning.

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The seasons of the Church year,

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to some extent reflect the seasons of the year.

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And they are marked,

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as are the seasons of the natural year, by colour.

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So in the Church we would celebrate Lent

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and Advent maybe with the colour purple or blue, perhaps.

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When there is no season, we think of green,

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which might remind us of the green fields of the summer.

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We use white for Easter and Christmas.

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We use red for Pentecost, the flames of the spirit,

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and also for Passiontide for the red on Palm Sunday and in Passion Week.

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So for the Easter Day processional,

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the vestments are predominantly white

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and once again the triumphant "Alleluya" can ring out.

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Christ's final ascension into heaven is another cause for great

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celebration in the Christian year, followed by Pentecost,

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when the flames of the Holy Spirit ignite in all of us

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the possibility to become disciples of Christ.

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Pentecost is when the Holy Spirit came

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and there were flames on people's heads

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and they began to speak lots of different languages.

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It's when the wind came in Pentecost.

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There was like... Was it fire on top of their heads?

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Their heads started going on fire and then they started speaking

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different languages and that was the start of the Christian Church.

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We do celebrate Pentecost, to some extent, as the Church's birthday.

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It's when the Church began

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as the outworking of God's spirit in the world.

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But we can pray for the Holy spirit any day.

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The Holy Spirit prays within us. It expresses our needs.

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She, he, whatever you want to call the Holy Spirit in that way.

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We can sing 'Come Down O Love Divine' any day

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and ask God and his spirit to fill our lives,

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that we may continue to serve him

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and be a witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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Sometimes, the message of the Bible

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and our experience of everyday life come together in glorious harmony,

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like harvest, when we give joyful thanks

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for God's blessing in the fields

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and for the gifts of his creation around us.

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There are many famous harvest thanksgiving hymns.

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'We Plough The Fields And Scatter'

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and 'Now Thank We All Our God' can be used.

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'Come Ye Thankful People Come'. But there are some new ones too.

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This one is relatively new. 'For The Fruits Of His Creation'.

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It was written by Fred Pratt Green and a tune used by Francis Jackson.

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Francis Jackson was organist at York Minster for many years

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and this tune really has taken off, East Acklam.

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It's a lovely tune and it works really well for these words.

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May the God who provides us with all the fruits of creation

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give us grace to care for the hungry and the despairing,

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that at our lives' end, we may rest eternal in the divine

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fellowship of the saints.

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And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son,

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and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always.

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Amen.

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The school's war memorial serves to remind the children of both

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military and civilian casualties from wars past and present.

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Although remembrance isn't actually part of the Church's year,

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coming so soon after All Souls' Day, it is a time to remember

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not just the faithful who have lost their lives,

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but all the saints in heaven whose festival days

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punctuate the Christian year

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and whose hymns of praise to God will live for ever more.

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Later this year, we'll be revealing the UK's top 10 hymns.

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But to find out what they are, we need you to cast your vote.

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You've only got a week left to vote but it couldn't be simpler.

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Just go to the Songs of Praise website

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and choose your favourite from the list of 100 hymns.

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The 10 most popular will be sung at The Big Sing

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in the Royal Albert Hall.

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And next week,

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Diane will be introducing more music with worship and praise

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in the great outdoors as the summer festival season gets under way.

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