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Durham Cathedral Christmas tree illuminated by Ukrainian family at festive service

Yesterday afternoon, Durham Cathedral welcomed guests from Ukraine and their host families living in the North-East region to illuminate the gigantic Christmas tree during a special service.

During the Lighting of the Tree and Blessing of the Crib service, Larysa, Milana and Danna turned on the lights of the 26ft Norwegian Spruce Christmas tree, igniting hope for all those in need at Christmas time. The Reverend Canon Michael Hampel, Acting Dean of Durham, blessed the crib while the choir of Durham Cathedral sang a variety of festive carols.

Each year, Durham Cathedral invites special members of the community to light the tree and the tradition continued this year, with Ukrainian guests invited to the service, enabling communities to stand together in solidarity.

In the last 10 months, the UK has welcomed over 100,000 people fleeing from the Russian invasion to Ukraine, and has triggered the largest war related migration since the 1990s. Alice Ambrose-Thurman, a worshipper and volunteer at the cathedral, has coordinated the welcoming of Ukrainian families staying in the region. Alice said,

"Jesus himself had to flee his homeland with his family. It has been a privilege to be able to support our new Ukrainian friends in every way we can. We are taught to welcome everyone as Christ himself. I have seen incredible generosity of welcome from the host community, both from those of faith and those without."

The service began with prayer from Reverend Canon Michael Hampel, followed by Ding Dong! Merrily On High from the choir, and reading from Alice Ambrose-Thurman and Canon Charlie Allen. A highlight from the service involved the Acting Dean blessing the Crib with holy water, followed by the choir singing In the Bleak Midwinter. During the service, the choir spread festive cheer with carols including Hark the Angels Sing and The Shepherd's Pipe Carol. The service ended with prayers led by children from the cathedral community and Laryissa, Milana and Danna lighting the tree.

Reverend Canon Michael Hampel, Acting Dean of Durham said,

Christmas gets us close up and personal to God through the person of Jesus who preached peace to those who were far off and those who were near. At our Lighting of the Tree this year, we brought together Ukrainian guests and local people to sing of the Christmas message of peace and good will and we hope and pray that our solidarity gives strength and brings peace to all who live in fear of the oppressor.

The Church of England encourages people to pray, support and act towards the current crisis in Ukraine and towards Ukrainian refugees. Support can be given to the Disasters Emergency Committees Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal and USPG - Diocese in European Emergency Appeal, or through sponsorship for Ukrainian families.

The Norwegian Spruce Christmas tree was generously donated by Wards Bros and a cherry picker to install the tree was kindly provided by Tyne and Wear Access.


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