Church members take carols outdoors in Ipswich on Christmas morning

Church carol singers

Members of St Mary at the Elms held a carol service on the street outside the church. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Worshippers from the smallest parish in Suffolk took the Christmas message to the streets of Ipswich on Christmas morning after their normal festive service.

St Mary at the Elms, in Elm Street, is officially the smallest parish in the county - and vicar Fr John Thackray points out that about half the area of the parish is given over to car parks!

At the end of the service, members of the congregation came out to sing carols outside in the bright crisp sunshine - which attracted several passing members of the public to join in.

Fr John Thackray

Fr John Thackray at St Mary at the Elms. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Fr John said: "We had about 30 people there. There weren't many people just walking past on Christmas morning - but those who were there joined us in the carols.

"We were all carefully socially-distanced but it was really good to go outside and involve more people like that.

"We plan to do similar things in the future when things are not quite so difficult."

Carol singers in Ipswich

Members of the congregation of St Mary at the Elms singing on Christmas morning. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

The outdoor carols were arranged by members of the congregation, as well as Fr John.

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Church member Alison Beech said: "Usually we'd have our carol service on the Thursday before Christmas and invite people from across Ipswich to join so, when we couldn't do it this year, the thought came to sing outside instead.

"We did a test run earlier this week and gathered a good group together so decided to do it again on Christmas Day.

"A lot of our congregation are elderly or shielding so haven't been able to attend services at all since lockdown and we have livestreamed as much as we can.

"It is important at this time of year for people to come and be peaceful either alone or together."

The church is open for a few hours every day to give people working in the busy commercial and legal area of the town the chance to find some peace - but because it is so small, only a very limited number of worshippers are able to come together for services.

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