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To be a Pilgrim … is to be prepared, 

Episode 10 

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

We teach Pilgrims always to be prepared. They know that preparation is a very important key to success in exams, fixtures, performances, and life. “Be prepared” is the motto of the Scouts, originating from Robert Baden-Powell’s explanation in his book Scouting for Boys: “You are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty”. We have just entered Advent - a time of preparation.

On Saturday 28 November at 1730 I had the best seat in Winchester, nay the world, when we celebrated the beginning of the season of Advent with the Advent Procession in the Cathedral. I had to pinch myself on several occasions. Was this really happening? What a privilege! As the national lockdown was still in force, the congregation was watching online from all over the country and the world.

Dean Catherine offered the Welcome and the Bidding prayer. The impact of light spreading out from the darkness and through the Cathedral as an array of candles on the floor were lit in sequence was inspiring. The procession moved slowly from the West end to the High Altar as the Dean and clergy, the Bishops of Winchester, Basingstoke and Southampton, the lay clerks and the (our!) choristers sang the Antiphons, an anthem (A Tender Shoot) by Otto Goldschmidt and the evocative Advent carol, O come, O come, Emmanuel, which perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season. (I enjoyed it so much I sang it twice through when I got home as I watched the service back on the Cathedral’s YouTube channel.) I was invited to read the second lesson, and following William H, who read the first lesson so clearly and movingly, was a hard act. Well done, boys! What a beautiful service to begin the season of Advent, one which is full of preparation for the birth of Jesus and expectation as we look for the return of Christ in glory to consummate his eternal kingdom.

On Wednesday, Nathaniel B (the youngest chorister) had the honour of hitting the switch to light the Cathedral’s Christmas tree (including the star on the top) in the annual short tree-lighting service. Dean Catherine reminded us all that even though the world feels a little unusual at the moment, Christmas IS coming. The press were in attendance and we have some wonderful pictures of our own (see below). My favourite moment was when one Chorister began to sing Panis Angelicus and the rest, who were by this time spread all over the Cathedral (some getting dizzy spinning circles in their red vestments - see picture below), spontaneously joined in - the Cathedral was filled with the most amazing sound.

The Quiristers sang evensong at Winchester Cathedral on 26 November and at the College last night. Due to regulations, there were no congregations and also no Pilgrims’ staff in attendance. Such a shame. They sang beautifully on both occasions by all accounts and are very much looking forward to their next service. Mr Ionascu popped into school briefly last week, and it was so wonderful to see him looking so well. We are very grateful for the super work Mr Cunningham has been doing – the Quiristers have not skipped a beat (no pun intended) while Mr Ionascu has been away. We are very much looking forward to hearing their recording from Abbey Road last month - how often do boys get the opportunity to record in those famous studios? Their A Winter's Night CD is now available at Cornflowers and online (see below).

And to return to service as I wrote about in a previous episode of To be a Pilgrim. Ben H, Chair of the Charity Committee, along with Alberto G, Sebastian F, James K and Shane S launch below the Pilgrims’ 365 Challenge. The idea is that boys and their families will run an accumulative 365 Km or more before the end of the year raising money for Allegra’s Ambition, a wonderful charity to help children get active which Ben has a personal connection with through his family. The boys pitched the idea to me in my study at break earlier this week. They were so compelling, passionate and organised that of course the answer was, “Yes, please!” Well done, boys! I encourage all boys and their families to take part whether in the UK or further afield (running together is safe and great fun), donate a £ per Km ran and send in video as Ben describes below. Get fitter and help others. I suggest we also make a compilation of photos for the newsletter. We will let you know where to send photos to. With many thanks to Miss Erasmus and Mrs Goodthwaite for their help.

Finally, today the boys and staff are wearing Christmas jumpers in support of the Salvation Army's appeal to provide toys for children at Christmas. Our thanks go to Dr Noble and the PPA for organising the day. What a jolly sight it was in the Yard and Grid this morning as boys excitedly compared their jumpers (and their teachers’ jumpers). Who was wearing what this year? The jumpers have added to the fun and excitement as we have all enjoyed Christmas lunch with crackers and squash. Enormous and heartfelt thanks to Mrs Razza and her team for feeding us so heartily, healthily, and deliciously, today and every day!

I wish you a very happy weekend and all the best for the last (half) week of term.

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