A large crowd gathered at Bethel Baptist Church in Pembroke Dock to light candles and sing carols to the accompaniment of Pembroke Borough Silver Band.

A special message from a Ukrainian pastor was broadcast during the service on Sunday, December 18. The pastor’s message of hope and courage from Ukraine was delivered both in English and in his native tongue, much to the encouragement of the members of the Ukrainian community who were present at the service. Following this, the country’s flag was projected onto the screen and the congregation stood in respectful silence as the band played the Ukrainian National Anthem.

Then the master of ceremonies, Pastor Michael Bave, invited everyone to light a candle, taking their fire from those of the ushers. The candles were then placed into the Communion glass holders in the pews - a degree of care was needed here not to set fire to anyone’s hair or clothing - and many chose to hold their candles during the singing of carols.

The band kept a fine pace - especially when it came to ‘God rest ye merry, gentlemen’ - and it was a joy to be able to sing out after three years without the freedom to hold such gatherings, unmasked and unlimited in numbers.

Those gathered were also treated to two performances: ‘Light of the world’ by talented guitarist Pastor Jonathan Marsden, and a pro performance of ‘Mary Did you Know’ by Pastor Michael, Pembroke Dock’s answer to Neil Diamond.

Another highlight of the service was a vote of thanks from Ian Whatling, manager of Pembrokeshire’s five Foodbanks, who said that the people of Pembroke Dock were second-to-none in their generosity. Addressing Tesco’s representative Sharon, who read a passage of Luke during the service, he also thanked the store for their support.

There were treats for the children and hot drinks and mince pies for all. As people went through the doors to partake in refreshments, the band, no doubt missing Ron’s usual contribution, nevertheless struck up a very lively rendition of Jingle Bells.

Donations on the night amounted to over £300 for Ukraine. If anyone would like to contribute, they can write a cheque to Bethel Baptist Church in an envelope marked ‘Ukraine’.