Ukrainian families living in Devon held a special Christmas service at a church near Tavistock this weekend.
The church of St Michael de Rupe in Brentor has significance for the local Ukrainian community as St Michael is the patron Saint of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
Rev Dr Hazel Buckland, who led the service said :
“We realised St Michael’s was attracting a lot of Ukrainian visitors, so we held a special service at Michaelmas (the feast day of St Michael).
“Helen, the churchwarden, then realised that the Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on 7 January and so we asked the families if they would like to hold a Christmas service and they said 'yes please!' ”
Tania Kovalchuk who has lived in Tavistock since before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and who was one of the organisers said :
“There are now more than 30 Ukrainian families living in the Tavistock area who are warmly welcomed by their supportive host families.
“I was very happy when Hazel contacted me at the beginning of December and suggested organising us a Christmas Service for our Orthodox Christmas.
“I was surprised how much she knew about our Orthodox Christmas, and how profoundly Hazel approached preparation for this day to make it very special to all of us - because celebrating Christmas is a very big and important holy day for Ukrainians.”
The service included readings and prayers in Ukrainian and English and a small choir singing songs, including the Ukrainian Carol of the Bells in Ukrainian.
The service was recorded and will be uploaded to YouTube so it can be shared further afield, particularly with family members still in Ukraine.
Tania said :
“Hazel thought of every detail to make this service accessible and inclusive for all people - with Bible readings in Ukrainian, and easy-to-read Ukrainian and British carols, a Prayer for Ukraine by people from the church and by Ukrainians.
“Our children prepared a small nativity play that they performed at the service. We have been rehearsing, planning and preparing well.”
After the service, traditional home-made Ukrainian Christmas dishes were shared by the families and their English hosts.
St Michael de Rupe, on Brentor, is part of the Tavy Mission Community and the first church on the Devon Pilgrim Archangel’s Way.