As the UK sees out a second national lockdown and Christmas celebrations like in-person carol services seem inevitably cancelled this year, Christian children’s charity Compassion UK and TBN UK have brought together the UK’s favourite worship leaders to create Carols with Compassion, a freely available hour-long virtual carol service to lift the nation’s spirits. Airing on 6 December at 8pm, Compassion UK is encouraging people to join social watch parties as an opportunity for communities to stay connected and celebrate the hope of the Bible’s Christmas message.
Carols with Compassion blends traditional carol favourites like O Holy Night and Hark! The Heard Angels Sing with contemporary festive Christian and gospel music, performed by Compassion-supported children and young people from around the world joining Martin Smith singing with his daughter Elle Limebear, Noel Robinson, Graham Kendrick, Philippa Hanna, the London Community Gospel Choir, Hillsong London and Lurine Cato MBE.
Set against the backdrop of the beautiful and ancient St Mary’s church in Willesden, London, there will also be an uplifting spoken word by poet and storyteller Dai Woolridge, Bible readings and a message brought by Richmond Wandera, a former Compassion-supported child who is now a pastor of the New Life Baptist Church in Kampala, Uganda, Founder and Director of the Pastors Discipleship Network, and a Trustee of Compassion UK.
Professionally produced by TBN UK with support from Integrity Music, the musicians and speakers recorded the concert shortly before the UK went into its second lockdown. English vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Martin Smith says,
“We’ve all had a year of not being able to worship live with people and that’s been sad for our community. But getting together on behalf of Compassion UK, singing these songs and meeting all our friends who we haven’t seen for a while meant there was a lot of joy in the room – we hope people feel that when they see the concert.”
Elle Limebear, Martin’s daughter and a singer and songwriter in her own right, adds,
“When we sing something like Hark The Herald Angels Sing, it makes me feel like I’m in year seven at school again. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, it’s Christmas time.” There’s something so nostalgic and beautiful about getting to sing those lyrics, it’s going to help us lift up our eyes and remember there is a bigger picture here. I would encourage everyone at home watching this carol experience to stand up, put a Christmas jumper on, curl your hair, go wild and sing these carols!”
UK based worship leader and songwriter Graham Kendrick says,
”Obviously, because we’re still in lockdown, we’re going to have some kind of a lockdown Christmas. We don’t know what level yet. People are going to miss the regular Christmas carol services and so on. At my church we’ve just been planning what to do. Carols with Compassion has got a great atmosphere and everything you want for Christmas. It draws you into the occasion on a level that I think is hard to produce in a local church with our amateur filmmaking. I think it is going to fill a gap and also open our eyes. It’s like a window into the lives of people around the world and the different kinds of Christmases that people are having and what we can do about that.
Christian musician and Compassion UK ambassador Noel Robinson says,
“This carol service is not just about singing carols, but we’re marking this moment to say that in this pandemic we are still passionate about young people’s lives being changed. Maybe our giving can’t be the way it used to be, but whatever small thing we can do can produce incredibly big ramifications as it echoes around. As we engage in singing the songs and are reminded of why this is an amazing time, it’s good that we don’t forget to reach out and give someone an opportunity.”
Christian musician and Compassion UK ambassador Philippa Hanna says,
“Even if this Christmas is not what we would have expected a year ago, the message of hope remains the same, so we want to encourage people to still come together in spirit if not in person to join in the celebrations. Even if it’s a time of fellowship at a distance, we’re going all in to make it as festive and ‘Christmassy’ as possible. It’s going to feel like you’re in your favourite traditional church, because we are surrounded by stained glass windows and Christmas trees, spending time with some of your favourite worship leaders. We really want people to join in at home so we’re making sure the words are on screen, just like being in a real service. Imagine you are there with your hymn sheet and your candle and just get involved so we can all sing together.”
Carols with Compassion will premiere Wednesday 2nd at 7:30pm on TBN UK (Freeview channel 65) and then show on Compassion UK social channels Sunday 6th December at 8pm. Visit Compassion UK’s Facebook, Instagram and YouTube and follow them to receive reminders of the broadcast nearer the time and join the Facebook event.
Church leaders who want to encourage their congregation can download the event to share as part of their own Christmas services after the 6th December and can drop the Compassion churches team a line to sign up for this.