Archbishop Holgate’s School celebrated their annual carol service in York Minster on Wednesday 12 December. The event has grown in recent years to become a popular community occasion and one of the largest school carol services in the region. Over a thousand parents, governors, friends of the school and members of the public filled the nave and aisles of the Cathedral, joined by Reverend Matt Woodcock, Mission Enabler for the Diocese of York and contributor to BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought.

Those present heard the Christmas story retold through the music, drama, bible readings, carols and dance. This was done with a particular focus on the story of the Shepherds and how the Christmas story reflects the Birth of Hope. Over 200 students from Archbishop Holgate’s participated in the service as singers, readers, actors, dancers, musicians, ushers, technical crew and in a British Sign Language choir. The school was also joined by over 150 pupils from nine primary schools across York and the East Riding who sang together. This year the Community Choir had almost 80 parents, governors and staff from Archbishop Holgate’s School and others in the Pathfinder Multi Academy Trust.

The preacher at the service was Reverend Matt Woodcock, Pioneer minister at St Barnabas Church, York and a BBC Radio 2 Pause for Thought Contributor. Matt spoke of Jesus as the ultimate ‘divine disruptor’ who was ‘dangerous’ to know and follow. He spoke of Jesus as someone who turns worlds upside down. He explained that this was true of the nativity characters 2,000 years ago and it’s true today. He told the congregation that the hearts of Mary, Joseph and the Shepherds had been disrupted to the point where they were prepared to lay aside everything and do what God was calling them to do and go where God was calling them to go. He finished by asking us to reflect on what that might mean for everyone present. About the service Matt said: “It was a huge honour to speak at this service. What a brilliant night in one of the world’s most magnificent buildings! The staff and pupils helped convey the real meaning of Christmas in such a beautiful and engaging way. They should be very proud.”

Richard Nihill, the School’s Chaplain, said: “It is a real privilege to present our interpretation of the Christmas story in the beautiful setting of York Minster. We know that for many of the congregation this is their main opportunity to reflect on Jesus’ birth. To have the opportunity to share this with over a thousand people is wonderful. For me the annual carol service is one of the highlights of the school year and a wonderful reflection of our school values. We were delighted to have welcomed Rev. Matt Woodcock to join us in our celebrations. His boundless enthusiasm was truly infectious.”

Listen to the BBC Radio York coverage including interviews with Richard Nihill, School Chaplain, and Head Boy and Girl, Archie and Maia.