Church is filled to standing room only for carol service

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WATCHED by proud parents, siblings and other family members, pupils from schools across Portsmouth took centre stage at this year’s carol service at St Mary’s Church in Fratton.

The annual event is supported by The News and was once again a standing-room-only service.

LIGHTING THE WAY Grace Franklin, 5, and her mum Terrie Franklin with their Christingle during the carol service at St Mary's Church in Fratton. Picture: Allan Hutchings (133391-167)

LIGHTING THE WAY Grace Franklin, 5, and her mum Terrie Franklin with their Christingle during the carol service at St Mary's Church in Fratton. Picture: Allan Hutchings (133391-167)

Readings were given this year by the paper’s gardening columnist Brian Kidd and Home and Away actor Lynne McGranger, who is in panto at the King’s Theatre from this evening.

Children from Manor and Penhale Infant schools, Newbridge Junior and Arundel Court Primary schools sang carols for the congregation.

Proud mum Liza Walter-Nelson and her husband Philip, from Drayton, watched their son Jack perform with other pupils from Manor Infant.

She said: ‘It’s been amazing and the kids have all sung really well this year.’

The packed congregation. Picture: Allan Hutchings (133391-364)

The packed congregation. Picture: Allan Hutchings (133391-364)

The service was conducted by Father Bob White, vicar of St Mary’s in Fratton, who enlisted the help of Portsmouth Lord Mayor Lynne Stagg and the children of News editor Mark Waldron to explain the origin of the Christingle to the youngsters in the congregation.

After the service, which lasted around an hour, Cllr Stagg said: ‘It was a brilliant service – fabulous.

‘It always is, because it gets the families involved, gets the children participating, and it’s fantastic.

‘A lot of the people who come here might not go to church regularly, and it’s brilliant to see them.’

Father Bob spoke to each family as they left the church.

He said: ‘This service is a good way of celebrating the life of the community we’re part of.

‘It’s a good chance to get together and celebrate the Christmas story together.’

TV star Lynne McGranger told the congregation she was using a break in last-minute rehearsals to come to the church, and apologised that she wouldn’t be able to stay around to meet the children afterwards.

The Australian added: ‘It’s wonderful to see a church filled with people praising God. It’s truly wonderful.’

She read The Story of the Shepherds, from St Luke’s Gospel, while Brian Kidd read The Story of the Wise Men, from St Matthew’s Gospel.