For me and many others in Grantham, Christmas started last Friday in ChristChurch on Finkin Street with the Salvation Army's Carol Service in aid of Mencap and the Grantham Gateway Club. The programme contained a variety of special treats including superb singing by Walton Girls School choir and some very good gags by the service's compere, Steve Sutton, fomer Nottingham Forest and Grantham Town goalkeeper.
But the highlight, which had us all clutching our sides at one moment and wiping tears from our eyes at the next, was the performance by members of the Gateway Club. They came dressed as snowmen and reindeer, read poems and sang Jingle Bells. But above all they communicated an unbounded joy in being alive, being among friends and celebrating Christmas. This week we have learned from the latest census that there has been a big drop in the number of people in Britain who think of themselves as Christian. And it may well be true that conventional affiliation to a church is on the wane.
My own religious beliefs are vague and changeable - I often feel that the only thing I am certain about is the extent of my uncertainty. But, occasions like the one in ChristChurch last Friday make me confident that the sense of hope, the power of friendship and the bonds of family and community that we feel most strongly at Christmas are as important to people now as they have ever been. So I wish all the Journal's readers, whatever your religion, a very happy Christmas. And hope that you are able to take some of the innocent joy displayed by members of the Gateway Club into your lives in the New Year.