If ever there were an occasion that sums up ECS, that captures what we are about, that encapsulates what matters here, and that packages together all that is at the heart of our school – it is the Carol Service. Music, worship, community, the cathedral, performance, stillness, reflection, hard work, Nursery through to Year 8, coming together, joy – the Carol Service is made of these things.
We were determined to go ahead if we possibly could, and with the announcement of the government’s Plan B just 48 hours before, we all of us (thank you) went to quite some lengths to make this happen: Lateral Flow Tests for all, facemasks, distanced seating throughout the nave, marked out territories for the different choirs, limited capacity, recordings to send to those who couldn’t be there. The 90 minutes we spent safely together were poignant, energising, gentle, fun, prayerful and musical – a very special time indeed, curated by our simply extraordinary Chaplain Bishop Martin.
And so it was that we brought our Michaelmas term to a close. I suspect it is fair to say that everyone – pupils, staff, families – will be in need of a decent break this Christmas after lots of hard work, plenty of energy, a fair amount of adapting, and a collective determination to give the pupils a cracking term. I was asked recently (by Devon Life, no less – p165 if you’re interested) to choose my 3 wishes for our school this Christmas. The three that I listed chime rather nicely with the messages encapsulated by our Carol Service, and I’ve noted them below in the hope that a little of all 3 might reach you and yours this festive season. Have a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year.
1. Each other
After the uncertainty and restrictions of last Christmas, spending time with loved ones, focusing on being together and looking after one another will be the ultimate gift to unwrap this year.
2. Rest, Regroup, Recharge
We take learning seriously at our school, but we won’t be setting any holiday homework. Learning takes lots of forms, and I want our pupils to spend time away from the books to grow in other ways. I‘ll be encouraging them to play board games, go on walks, spend time round the supper table, cook some meals, tidy their rooms (!), watch some silly movies, read, enjoy some lie-ins, get out and about in their neighbourhood, perform some random acts of kindness, be present with their families. These things matter – they are the right habits for life.
3. Music and Worship
Our Choristers will be returning to School during part of the holiday for ‘Choir Term’ – to lead the sung services and festive concerts in Exeter Cathedral. They will be hard at work doing something they love: offering music, worship and Christmas spirit to the people of Devon who will gather (either in person or online) to celebrate the Christmas Story. My wish for everyone this year is that they might be touched by the music, joy, wonder, stillness, excitement and hope of Christmas.