'A Dickens of a Christmas' Sunday 13th Dec including Gift Service with Peter Bruce and Andrea Clark-Ward

Intro Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiBwh-GKIOs&ab_channel=08071936

Welcome to this chapel & online attendees

That was Bernard Cribbens leading an upbeat frivolous song from the BBC programme of ‘The Good Old Days’ which ran for 30yrs from 1953 based on the old Victorian Music Halls. It introduces the diverse themes of Christmas and gifts that can put a smile on your face (embarrassed).

Our service title today is ‘A Dickens of a Christmas’ which as the name suggests will be a melange of Victorian delight for your delectation.

Introduction Andrea & Peter

We light the 3rd Sunday in Advent candle on this lovely Advent Wreath, made by Susan Wildman, asking for light-heartedness, the light of wisdom and the light of interconnection expressed in seasonal gifts, particularly to those in need.

We have our lovely christmas tree and some limited decorations – thanks to Christine and Ian who came along on Wednesday to do this.

We have our tier3 covid rules to meet so unfortunately keep your masks on when you can and no singing, although we will ask you to speak in a careful way at a few points in the service.

The other theme of this service is Gifting in all the myriad of ways we can do this as shown in Dickens stories: including cooking meals for others, not taking offence from difficult family, connecting with the community in some way, from giving time to caring organisations, mentoring those struggling, paying out taxes gracefully for the services they provide and giving to charities that support homeless, hungry and those struggling. We can do all these joyfully.

Our charity this Christmas is Caring in Bristol which is supporting homeless in rooms and providing food. You can donate to Andrew or directly on www.caringinbristol.co.uk/donate/

Song - At this time of giving – Graham Kendrick https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gliAnJj0BGQ&ab_channel=GrahamKendrickMusic

(Peter)Then and now – timeless lessons of change and coping

The Victorians are renowned for the industrial revolution and the growth of cities. The fruits of empire flowed in and funded the technology to harness steam power both in new ships that shrank the world and in railways that enabled the new cities to be fed with fresh produce and transport goods.

Dickens was born in 1812 into this world of massive change of the industrial revolution, globalisation, trade and marketisation that drove the creation of empires and an opening of the mind to new science and ideas to question what was believed. Who wouldn’t want that?

Well, Dickens represented in his stories the mirror or personal side with the problems of rapid urbanisation, poverty, squalor, ill-health, growing inequality, selfish ambition and a diminished care for all in community that came from these changes.

200years later we are also in times of great change and crisis as we face the information revolution, more stress &Anxiety, social isolation, unhappiness, more mental illness, increasing inequality, climate emergency, the Covid epidemic and the Brexit deal crisis. All these question how we are all in it together and we can only get out of it by individual action but in a collective way. As the famous African proverb goes: if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.

We are perhaps at a crux point, a turning point, between 2 Eras - the Century of Self as it has been termed with wars and global consumptionism, the start of the Anthropocene as it’s called; AND a new era, sometime termed the Age of Aquarius of more loving ‘other’, with a greater emergence of trust and community across all nations of the world and all religions and all genders and all races.

The opening of Dickens book, A Tale of Two Cities, seems to predict the confusion of this time of change well. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

The legacy of Dickens

Dickens believed in the team player – whether helping his family out when his father was in the Marshalsea Debtor’s prison or as an attentive worker, or finding contacts to start his writing career, writing for his audience, fighting for social justice or bailing out his family. Dickens was a real best seller of his day with widespread appeal following serialisations of his first books. He helped Victorian Society pay attention to the bottom neglected levels of society, to our frailties &vulnerability.

Dickens had a relatively happy childhood, but a tough adolescence that gave him access to many of the situations and people that became the scenes and characters in his novels, tough situations are never all bad! ‘Fagin’ for instance showed him how to pack the pots in the blacking factory and his father’s time in Marshalsea Debtors prison became a setting described in various books. Dickens tried a few careers before ending up writing which is a lesson to us in itself of taking time to find what we are called to. He was a Law Clerk for a few months, he learnt shorthand in a few months (usually took years) and tried being a court stenographer before moving on to being a shorthand reporter of Parliament with a newspaper. He even did an audition for acting but He obviously found his joy in writing stories, and his success, starting with the serialisation of PickwickPapers.

There was a good R4 programme last Monday about Laughter, in which Dickens’ ability to move from tragedy to humour in just one sentence was picked out. He captures life in the round, and that is still how life is today – we have to face the good times and the bad. Our choices seem much greater than in Victorian times but they are not so different, we can still choose for self or for the wider or greater good. And just as then, Christmas is a special time in the depths of the darkness of winter, when we are challenged in our giving of time, kindness, presents and gifts. When we have quiet times that can bring up feelings of loneliness for some, but allow us to reflect on the balance in our lives as was the case famously for Scrooge. Christmas is a time to search our souls and find some revelations or shifts in our sense of the joy of giving as well as receiving.

Within a few years Dickens broadened from giving a voice to the marginalised in society in his books, to challenging reform in his lectures and becoming a strong philanthropist himself helping with social work and the Ragged Schools. During these early 1840s he was known to have been involved with Unitarians at Essex Street and Great Portland Street as well as later during his US tours, although long term he kept his links to the Church of England.

Dickens was a great observer of human nature. His characters and settings were careful constructs that show both our strengths and our weaknesses, our virtues and our sins, our quiet acceptance of current society and our capacity for action to change things.

Incidentally, Dickens helped galvanise in society a new attitude to Christmas through his writing of A Christmas Carol in 1843 and The Chimes in 1844 and The Cricket on the Hearth in 1845. The Times on 25thDec 1843 didn’t have a single mention of Christmas in it and hadn’t for 25yrs but all was to change.

A Christmas Carol portrays the joy of the Cratchit family with simple food, dancing and giving/receiving gifts versus his employer Scrooge who is a jaundiced miser and skinflint.

(Let’s just enjoy a short excerpt of the merriment of the Cratchit household preparing lunch together:

Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course--and in truth it was something very like it in that house. Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs. Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah! )

It is interesting that the very first ‘Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’ card was sent in 1843 too by Henry Cole. It went from a fad to a craze and then a tradition in the next few decades.

Before Victoria’s reign Britain did not celebrate with Santa Claus or christmas holidays, trees, crackers or cards. Pre-Dickens, Christmas was more for adults, with greenery and about merry-making with drink, song, dance and adult fun from the countryside. Food was goose and sweetmeats and gifts were to the boss….. After Dickens, Christmas was more for children, with bright reds/etc and about sharing or charity with gifts passed down to children, the poor, etc. and food being Turkey and mince pies of fruits. (in the style of the Cratchits).

Story Time (Andrea reading extracts from):

The Chimes by Charles Dickens

The Chimes is Dickens's second Christmas short story. This story is about a discouraged elderly man who believes he is worthless and that working class people are wicked by nature (lost faith in humanity). When he nods off to sleep He is drawn in his dream to the bell tower of a church where he finds the spirits of the bells and their goblin attendants show him what will happen if he continues to believe people are worthless and wicked.

Characters: Toby "Trotty" Veck, the protagonist, a poor elderly messenger or "ticket-porter."

Margaret "Meg" Veck, Toby's 21-year-old daughter.

Alderman Cute, a Justice of the Peace

Sir Joseph Bowley, a rich paternalist MP

Will Fern, a countryman.

Lilian Fern, Will's orphaned niece.

…..They were old Chimes, trust me. Centuries ago, these Bells had

been baptized by bishops: so many centuries ago, that the register

of their baptism was lost long, long before the memory of man, and

no one knew their names. They had had their Godfathers and

Godmothers, these Bells (for my own part, by the way, I would

rather incur the responsibility of being Godfather to a Bell than a

Boy), and had their silver mugs no doubt, besides. But Time had

mowed down their sponsors, and Henry the Eighth had melted down

their mugs; and they now hung, nameless and mugless, in the church


Not speechless, though. Far from it. They had clear, loud, lusty,

sounding voices, had these Bells; and far and wide they might be

heard upon the wind. Much too sturdy Chimes were they, to be

dependent on the pleasure of the wind, moreover; for, fighting

gallantly against it when it took an adverse whim, they would pour

their cheerful notes into a listening ear right royally; and bent

on being heard on stormy nights, by some poor mother watching a

sick child, or some lone wife whose husband was at sea,…

….And I take my stand by Toby Veck, although

he DID stand all day long (and weary work it was) just outside the

church-door. In fact he was a ticket-porter, Toby Veck, and waited

there for jobs.

And a breezy, goose-skinned, blue-nosed, red-eyed, stony-toed,

tooth-chattering place it was, to wait in, in the winter-time, as

Toby Veck well knew.

Falling out into the road to look up at the

belfry when the Chimes resounded, Toby trotted still.

He made this last excursion several times a day, for they were

company to him; and when he heard their voices, he had an interest

in glancing at their lodging-place, and thinking how they were

moved, and what hammers beat upon them. Perhaps he was the more

curious about these Bells, because there were points of resemblance

between themselves and him. They hung there, in all weathers, with

the wind and rain driving in upon them; facing only the outsides of

all those houses; never getting any nearer to the blazing fires

that gleamed and shone upon the windows, or came puffing out of the

chimney tops; and incapable of participation in any of the good

things that were constantly being handled, through the street doors

and the area railings, to prodigious cooks. Faces came and went at

many windows:….

'It seems as if we can't go right, or do right, or be righted,'

said Toby. 'I hadn't much schooling, myself, when I was young; and

I can't make out whether we have any business on the face of the

earth, or not. Sometimes I think we must have--a little; and

sometimes I think we must be intruding. I get so puzzled sometimes

that I am not even able to make up my mind whether there is any

good at all in us, or whether we are born bad. We seem to be

dreadful things; we seem to give a deal of trouble; we are always

being complained of and guarded against.

Roused, now, by her cheerful summons, he shook off a melancholy

shake of the head which was just coming upon him, and trotted to

her side. As he was stooping to sit down, the Chimes rang.

'Amen!' said Trotty, pulling off his hat and looking up towards


'Amen to the Bells, father?' cried Meg.

'They broke in like a grace, my dear,' said Trotty, taking his

seat. 'They'd say a good one, I am sure, if they could. Many's

the kind thing they say to me.'

….. when the house-door opened without any warning, and a footman very nearly

put his foot into the tripe.

'Out of the vays here, will you! You must always go and be asettin

on our steps, must you! You can't go and give a turn to

none of the neighbours never, can't you! WILL you clear the road,

or won't you?'

Strictly speaking, the last question was irrelevant, as they had

already done it.

'What's the matter, what's the matter!' said the gentleman for whom

the door was opened; coming out of the house at that kind of lightheavy

pace--that peculiar compromise between a walk and a jog-trot-

-with which a gentleman upon the smooth down-hill of life, wearing

creaking boots, a watch-chain, and clean linen, MAY come out of his

house: not only without any abatement of his dignity, but with an

expression of having important and wealthy engagements elsewhere.

'What's the matter! What's the matter!'

'You're always a-being begged, and prayed, upon your bended knees

you are,' said the footman with great emphasis to Trotty Veck, 'to

let our door-steps be. Why don't you let 'em be? CAN'T you let

'em be?'

'There! That'll do, that'll do!' said the gentleman. 'Halloa

there! Porter!' beckoning with his head to Trotty Veck. 'Come

here. What's that? Your dinner?'...

…..Now, you Porter! Don't you ever tell me, or anybody else, my friend,

that you haven't always enough to eat, and of the best; because I

know better. I have tasted your tripe, you know, and you can't

"chaff" me. You understand what "chaff" means, eh? That's the

right word, isn't it? Ha, ha, ha! Lord bless you,' said the

Alderman, turning to his friends again, 'it's the easiest thing on

earth to deal with this sort of people, if you understand 'em.'

Famous man for the common people, Alderman Cute! Never out of

temper with them! Easy, affable, joking, knowing gentleman!

'You see, my friend,' pursued the Alderman, 'there's a great deal

of nonsense talked about Want--"hard up," you know; that's the

phrase, isn't it? ha! ha! ha!--and I intend to Put it Down.

There's a certain amount of cant in vogue about Starvation, and I

mean to Put it Down. That's all! Lord bless you,' said the

Alderman, turning to his friends again, 'you may Put Down anything

among this sort of people, if you only know the way to set about


Trotty took Meg's hand and drew it through his arm. He didn't seem

to know what he was doing though.

'Your daughter, eh?' said the Alderman, chucking her familiarly

under the chin.

Always affable with the working classes, Alderman Cute! Knew what

pleased them! Not a bit of pride!

'Where's her mother?' asked that worthy gentleman.

'Dead,' said Toby. 'Her mother got up linen; and was called to

Heaven when She was born.' ….

…..'The worst man among

them! He has been committing a robbery, I hope?'

'Why no,' said Sir Joseph', referring to the letter. 'Not quite.

Very near. Not quite. He came up to London, it seems, to look for

employment (trying to better himself--that's his story), and being

found at night asleep in a shed, was taken into custody, and

carried next morning before the Alderman. The Alderman observes

(very properly) that he is determined to put this sort of thing

down; and that if it will be agreeable to me to have Will Fern put

down, he will be happy to begin with him.'

'Let him be made an example of, by all means,' returned the lady.

'Last winter, when I introduced pinking and eyelet-holing among the

men and boys in the village, as a nice evening employment, and had

the lines,

O let us love our occupations,

Bless the squire and his relations,

Live upon our daily rations,

And always know our proper stations,

set to music on the new system, for them to sing the while; this

very Fern--I see him now--touched that hat of his, and said, "I

humbly ask your pardon, my lady, but AN'T I something different

from a great girl?" I expected it, of course; who can expect

anything but insolence and ingratitude from that class of people!

That is not to the purpose, however. Sir Joseph! Make an example

of him!'

'Hem!' coughed Sir Joseph. 'Mr. Fish, if you'll have the goodness

to attend--'

Mr. Fish immediately seized his pen, and wrote from Sir Joseph's


'Private. My dear Sir. I am very much indebted to you for your

courtesy in the matter of the man William Fern, of whom, I regret

to add, I can say nothing favourable.

….I think he may be so far relied upon), his committal for some

short term as a Vagabond, would be a service to society, and would

be a salutary example in a country where--for the sake of those who

are, through good and evil report, the Friends and Fathers of the

Poor, as well as with a view to that, generally speaking, misguided

class themselves--examples are greatly needed. And I am,' and so


'It appears,' remarked Sir Joseph when he had signed this letter,

and Mr. Fish was sealing it, 'as if this were Ordained: really.

At the close of the year, I wind up my account and strike my

balance, even with William Fern!'

Trotty, who had long ago relapsed, and was very low-spirited,

stepped forward with a rueful face to take the letter.

'I heartily wish it was otherwise, sir,' said Trotty, anxious to

excuse himself. 'We have been tried very hard.'

Sir Joseph still repeating 'Take the letter, take the letter!' and

Mr. Fish not only saying the same thing, but giving additional

force to the request by motioning the bearer to the door, he had

nothing for it but to make his bow and leave the house. And in the

street, poor Trotty pulled his worn old hat down on his head, to

hide the grief he felt at getting no hold on the New Year,


He didn't even lift his hat to look up at the Bell tower when he

came to the old church on his return….

'Friends and Fathers, Friends and Fathers,' to the

burden they had rung out last.

Toby discharged himself of his commission, therefore, with all

possible speed, and set off trotting homeward. But what with his

pace, which was at best an awkward one in the street; and what with

his hat, which didn't improve it; he trotted against somebody in

less than no time, and was sent staggering out into the road.

'I beg your pardon, I'm sure!' said Trotty, pulling up his hat in

great confusion, and between the hat and the torn lining, fixing

his head into a kind of bee-hive. 'I hope I haven't hurt you.'

As to hurting anybody, Toby was not such an absolute Samson, but

that he was much more likely to be hurt himself: and indeed, he

had flown out into the road, like a shuttlecock. He had such an

opinion of his own strength, however, that he was in real concern

for the other party: and said again,

'I hope I haven't hurt you?'

The man against whom he had run; a sun-browned, sinewy, countrylooking

man, with grizzled hair, and a rough chin; stared at him

for a moment, as if he suspected him to be in jest. But, satisfied

of his good faith, he answered:

'No, friend. You have not hurt me.'

'Nor the child, I hope?' said Trotty.

'Nor the child,' returned the man. 'I thank you kindly.'

As he said so, he glanced at a little girl he carried in his arms,

asleep: and shading her face with the long end of the poor

handkerchief he wore about his throat, went slowly on.

The tone in which he said 'I thank you kindly,' penetrated Trotty's

heart. He was so jaded and foot-sore, and so soiled with travel,

and looked about him so forlorn and strange, that it was a comfort

to him to be able to thank any one: no matter for how little.

Toby stood gazing after him as he plodded wearily away, with the

child's arm clinging round his neck.

...I want to clear myself, and to be free to go and seek my bread--I don't know

where. So, maybe he'll forgive my going to his house to-night.'

'It's impossible,' cried Toby with a start, 'that your name's


'Eh!' cried the other, turning on him in astonishment.

'Fern! Will Fern!' said Trotty.

'That's my name,' replied the other.

'Why then,' said Trotty, seizing him by the arm, and looking

cautiously round, 'for Heaven's sake don't go to him! Don't go to

him! He'll put you down as sure as ever you were born. Here! come

up this alley, and I'll tell you what I mean. Don't go to HIM.'

His new acquaintance looked as if he thought him mad; but he bore

him company nevertheless. When they were shrouded from

observation, Trotty told him what he knew, and what character he

had received, and all about it.

...For myself, master, I never took with that hand'--holding it before

him--'what wasn't my own; and never held it back from work, however

hard, or poorly paid. Whoever can deny it, let him chop it off!

But when work won't maintain me like a human creetur; when my

living is so bad, that I am Hungry, out of doors and in; when I see

a whole working life begin that way, go on that way, and end that

way, without a chance or change;

...'I'm not a cross-grained man by natu', I believe; and easy

satisfied, I'm sure. I bear no ill-will against none of 'em. I

only want to live like one of the Almighty's creeturs. I can't--I

don't--and so there's a pit dug between me, and them that can and

do. There's others like me. You might tell 'em off by hundreds

and by thousands, sooner than by ones.'

'Stay!' cried Trotty, catching at his hand, as he relaxed his grip.

'Stay! The New Year never can be happy to me, if we part like

this. The New Year never can be happy to me, if I see the child

and you go wandering away, you don't know where, without a shelter

for your heads. Come home with me! I'm a poor man, living in a

poor place; but I can give you lodging for one night and never miss

it. Come home with me! Here! I'll take her!' cried Trotty,

lifting up the child. 'A pretty one! I'd carry twenty times her

weight, and never know I'd got it. Tell me if I go too quick for

you. I'm very fast. I always was!'

"T. Veck, Ticket Porter," wrote upon a board; and here we are and

here we go, and here we are indeed, my precious. Meg, surprising


With which words Trotty, in a breathless state, set the child down

before his daughter in the middle of the floor. The little visitor

looked once at Meg; and doubting nothing in that face, but trusting

everything she saw there; ran into her arms.

'Here we are and here we go!' cried Trotty, running round the room,

and choking audibly. 'Here, Uncle Will, here's a fire you know!

Why don't you come to the fire? Oh here we are and here we go!

Meg, my precious darling, where's the kettle? Here it is and here

it goes, and it'll bile in no time!'

Trotty really had picked up the kettle somewhere or other in the

course of his wild career and now put it on the fire: while Meg,

seating the child in a warm corner, knelt down on the ground before

her, and pulled off her shoes, and dried her wet feet on a cloth.

...Meg looked towards him and saw that he had elaborately stationed

himself behind the chair of their male visitor, where with many

mysterious gestures he was holding up the sixpence he had earned.

'I see, my dear,' said Trotty, 'as I was coming in, half an ounce

of tea lying somewhere on the stairs; and I'm pretty sure there was

a bit of bacon too. As I don't remember where it was exactly, I'll

go myself and try to find 'em.'

With this inscrutable artifice, Toby withdrew to purchase the

viands he had spoken of, for ready money, at Mrs. Chickenstalker's;

and presently came back, pretending he had not been able to find

them, at first, in the dark.

'But here they are at last,' said Trotty, setting out the teathings,

'all correct! I was pretty sure it was tea, and a rasher.

So it is. Meg, my pet, if you'll just make the tea, while your

unworthy father toasts the bacon, we shall be ready, immediate.

It's a curious circumstance,' said Trotty, proceeding in his

cookery, with the assistance of the toasting-fork, 'curious, but

well known to my friends, that I never care, myself, for rashers,

nor for tea. I like to see other people enjoy 'em,' said Trotty,

speaking very loud, to impress the fact upon his guest, 'but to me,

as food, they're disagreeable.'

Yet Trotty sniffed the savour of the hissing bacon--ah!--as if he

liked it; and when he poured the boiling water in the tea-pot,

looked lovingly down into the depths of that snug cauldron, and

suffered the fragrant steam to curl about his nose, and wreathe his

head and face in a thick cloud. However, for all this, he neither

ate nor drank, except at the very beginning, a mere morsel for

form's sake, which he appeared to eat with infinite relish, but

declared was perfectly uninteresting to him.

No. Trotty's occupation was, to see Will Fern and Lilian eat and

drink; and so was Meg's. And never did spectators at a city dinner

or court banquet find such high delight in seeing others feast:

although it were a monarch or a pope: as those two did, in looking

on that night. Meg smiled at Trotty, Trotty laughed at Meg. Meg

shook her head, and made belief to clap her hands, applauding

Trotty; Trotty conveyed, in dumb-show, unintelligible narratives of

how and when and where he had found their visitors, to Meg; and

they were happy. Very happy.

'Although,' thought Trotty, sorrowfully, as he watched Meg's face;

'that match is broken off, I see!'



'Trotty Veck, my boy! It's got about, that your daughter is going

to be married to-morrow. There an't a soul that knows you that

don't wish you well, or that knows her and don't wish her well. Or

that knows you both, and don't wish you both all the happiness the

New Year can bring. And here we are, to play it in and dance it

in, accordingly.'Which was received with a general shout. The Drum was rather

drunk, by-the-bye; but, never mind.

'What a happiness it is, I'm sure,' said Trotty, 'to be so

esteemed! How kind and neighbourly you are! It's all along of my

dear daughter. She deserves it!'

They were ready for a dance in half a second (Meg and Richard at

the top); and the Drum was on the very brink of feathering away

with all his power; when a combination of prodigious sounds was

heard outside, and a good-humoured comely woman of some fifty years

of age, or thereabouts, came running in, attended by a man bearing

a stone pitcher of terrific size, and closely followed by the

marrow-bones and cleavers, and the bells; not THE Bells, but aportable collection on a frame.

Trotty said, 'It's Mrs. Chickenstalker!' And sat down and beat his

knees again.

'Married, and not tell me, Meg!' cried the good woman. 'Never! I

couldn't rest on the last night of the Old Year without coming towish you joy. I couldn't have done it, Meg. Not if I had been

bed-ridden. So here I am; and as it's New Year's Eve, and the Eve

of your wedding too, my dear, I had a little flip made, and brought

it with me.'

Mrs. Chickenstalker's notion of a little flip did honour to her

character. The pitcher steamed and smoked and reeked like a

volcano; and the man who had carried it, was faint.

'Mrs. Tugby!' said Trotty, who had been going round and round her,

in an ecstasy.--'I SHOULD say, Chickenstalker--Bless your heart and

soul! A Happy New Year, and many of 'em! Mrs. Tugby,' said Trotty

when he had saluted her;--'I SHOULD say, Chickenstalker--This is

William Fern and Lilian.'

The worthy dame, to his surprise, turned very pale and very red.

'Not Lilian Fern whose mother died in Dorsetshire!' said she.Her uncle answered 'Yes,' and meeting hastily, they exchanged some

hurried words together; of which the upshot was, that Mrs.

Chickenstalker shook him by both hands; saluted Trotty on his cheek

again of her own free will; and took the child to her capacious


'Will Fern!' said Trotty, pulling on his right-hand muffler. 'Not

the friend you was hoping to find?'

'Ay!' returned Will, putting a hand on each of Trotty's shoulders.

'And like to prove a'most as good a friend, if that can be, as one

I found.'

'O!' said Trotty. 'Please to play up there. Will you have the


….Had Trotty dreamed? Or, are his joys and sorrows, and the actors

in them, but a dream; himself a dream; the teller of this tale a

dreamer, waking but now? If it be so, O listener, dear to him in

all his visions, try to bear in mind the stern realities from which

these shadows come; and in your sphere--none is too wide, and none

too limited for such an end--endeavour to correct, improve, and

soften them. So may the New Year be a happy one to you, happy to

many more whose happiness depends on you! So may each year be

happier than the last, and not the meanest of our brethren or

sisterhood debarred their rightful share, in what our Great Creator

formed them to enjoy.

The end

We have all had hard times we can contemplate on, with the story during this music.

Meditation – Enya Adeste Fidelis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52_lB7kpJ7E&ab_channel=Enya-Topic

Have you experienced HARD TIMES and learned how to overcome/help others overcome?

Candles of Joy &Concern 

– so let us think about those in need or in pain this festive season, including ourselves, our family/friends as well as our ‘neighbours’ of all kinds in need. And not to forget finding and share our joys too. You can also think about any Victorian object you have brought or are wearing, the history of them and what they mean to you.

What does ‘A Dickens of a Christmas’ mean to us ..to Unitarians: past /present / future ?

What are the boundaries and how can we reduce them?

Participation please

Dickens work is illustrated in the museum at his house in bloomsbury – also with guided tours of Dickensian London as most characters/settings were drawn from real London.

Current Good work to help alleviate Hard Times:

Positive cuttings from newspaper – Ragged Schools – Red Lodge – Mary Carpenter, Co-op good community work Ad, Council rejecting adverts for goods bad for children and adults, work with those living homeless behind UMB in the old Unitarian Graveyard.

Thoughts this Christmas

We still today have homeless and destitute, people in debt, without jobs, lonely and hiding away in these covid times. Ones dreading the future and ones going hungry.

Remember the power of giving to those in need (&Receiving ourselves) and the benefit it brings.

Closing Blessing

A reflection in the wake of Covid
Our minds seek boundaries that our hearts know not.
the lines we draw disappear when viewed with eyes of compassion.
the recognition of human kinship does not end at any border.
The wise part of us knows that the other is us and we them.
so may love and compassion guide us to be spiritually present in the recovery of our world.
may our prayers be filled with solace and hope helping us to support our relationships with solidarity.
may spirit inspire within us the true generosity that all tragedies invite and which this worldwide infection now requires, Amen.
Taken from Rod Richards’ words

Closing music representing Supporting people through tough times around the world. - ‘Do they know it’s christmas’ – BandAid 1984 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3fSknbR7Y4&ab_channel=ChristmasMusicVideos


Sources not used

London in 1830s had ‘Slums of filth’ (called Rookeries) with thousands crammed into a few streets with insanitary conditions and poverty.

2 children of ‘Ignorance and Want’ – represent the needs to be met or society would decline.

Dickens asks us to embrace morality over all else. In the redemption of Sydney Carton in Tale of Two Cities and Thomas Gradgrind in Hard Times, and in the kind acts of the prostitute Nancy in Oliver Twist, he shows that humans can change even when many would give them up as lost forever.

We all have a second chance. This is a gift of a message at Christmas time, when the world stops for a few days and we can restart again differently.

Pickwick Papers highlights the need to stay solvent and out of the debtors prison.

Oliver Twist highlighted life in Workhouses

Nicholas Nickleby portrays the need for a child to fund the family if a father isn’t able.

Martin Chuzzlewit is about selfishness.

His historical novels were never so popular – The Old Curiosity Shop, Barnaby Rudge, Tale of Two Cities.

1842 Dickens saw slavery during trip to USA and argued against it.

1867 whirlwind readings tour to USA netted £20k, (about £2m today).

When Dickens died 3yrs later in 1870 a child who lived nearby said ‘Does that mean there won’t be Christmas any more?’.

The legacy of Dickens – helped us not neglect the bottom of society, our frailties/vulnerability, and he was not without strangeness either taking an interest in the very believable minds of murderers and he dismissed his wife Catherine from their home and from her children, perhaps an unconscious comment on him rejecting his mother after she made him go back to the Blacking factory rather than to school. This was after they came out of the Marshalsea debtors prison. These establishments were privatised businesses extorting even more from their inmates. You left by finding money or in a coffin, mostly starved. 3died/day just of starvation at Marshalsea (according to a government report rising to 10/day in warm weather which bred more ill-health. Debtors in the 18th century who could afford the prison fees had access to a bar, shop and restaurant, and retained the crucial privilege of being allowed out during the day, which gave them a chance to earn money for their creditors. Everyone else was crammed into one of nine small rooms with dozens of others, possibly for years for the most modest of debts, which increased as unpaid prison fees accumulated. The poorest faced starvation and, if they crossed the jailers, torture with skullcaps and thumbscrews. A parliamentary committee reported in 1729 that 300 inmates had starved to death within a three-month period, and that eight to ten were dying every 24 hours in the warmer weather).