Over 1,300 Key Stage 2 pupils in Cornwall were treated to a surprise message from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, during their ‘Chorister Mega Zoom Schools Assembly,’ which took place this past month.

Pupils took part from Church and Local Authority schools across the county. In total, 18 schools joined, first to rehearse with the Choristers and then, in the ensuing Zoom Assembly, to sing, learn and explore faith together, with an emphasis on children leading children – passing the leadership baton between them across the county.

With Christmas around the corner, the theme of this Mega Zoom Assembly, was: Preparing our hearts for Christmas: giving our ‘presence’ to others.’ The children explored this through music including ‘In the Bleak Mid-Winter’ and the Cornish, ‘Sans Day Carol,’ which they had just learned with Director of Music, Christopher Gray.

A Bible reading was given by Jaydon from Y6, St Petroc’s C of E Primary, Bodmin, followed by a short talk by Archdeacon Kelly Betteridge and a video compilation of prayers written and read by pupils from the Isles of Scilly to Quethiock. The Assembly was due to end with the ‘Choristers’ Cornish Blessing’. However, it was just before this that the children and teachers were treated to an extraordinary surprise – a personal video message, just for them, from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

In his video, the Archbishop cited his visit to Cornwall in June as one of ‘the highlights of this year’. On arriving in Cornwall in the Summer, the Archbishop was treated to a surprise welcome video, featuring the ‘Choristers’ Cornish Blessing’, created specially for him by the Choristers and schools. He also heard the blessing sung in person at St Petroc’s C of E, Bodmin.

In a return gesture, on his video, the Archbishop told the children how much he enjoyed the musical blessing and went on to give an inspiring message about what it is to bless others, saying, “To talk about a blessing is to talk about what God is like.” He spoke of Christmas marking God’s greatest gift of blessing, Jesus himself, and concluded, affirming, “So as you hear and as you sing of God’s blessing, remembering that you are saying everything about how much God loves you, remember also what he wants for you….and always, always remember that God is for you, with you, not against you, not far from you.”

With the Archbishop’s words ringing in their ears, the schools and Choristers then gave a heartfelt rendition of the ‘Choristers’ Cornish Blessing’. The new Interim Dean of Truro Cathedral, the Canon Simon Robinson, warmly invited all the children and their families to visit the cathedral in person in the run up to Christmas and to see the tree and crib. Finally, at the signal, all the schools, some 1,300 children in total, switched to ‘off mute’ and the Zoom ended with a mighty ‘Merry Christmas and Nadelik Lowen!’ resounding from all corners of the county.

Dean Simon says: “It was a true joy to take part in the Mega Zoom Assembly. I found the whole experience both moving and exciting. It was inspiring to see over a thousand young faces tuned in to sing and worship with us and we look forward to welcoming many of them in person in the run up to Christmas. This isn’t our cathedral it is everyone’s cathedral, a cathedral for the whole of Cornwall and I’m especially looking forward to sharing it in this Advent time. It’s a tender time to visit with little ones – to take in the tree, the crib, the music or, as busy parents, simply to sit and be quiet while the hubbub goes on outside.”