Search

Ho, ho, no! Scores of Stalham children left distraught after curate says Father Christmas does not exist

12:07 18 December 2014

Santa holding a christmas gift

Santa holding a christmas gift

Archant

Scores of children gasped in shock when the magic bubble of Christmas was accidentally burst at a school carol concert – as a clergywoman said Santa Claus was not real.

Rev Margaret McPheeRev Margaret McPhee

Parents took to Facebook to voice their upset at the comment, but the Rev Margaret McPhee was quick to apologise for her “off-the-cuff remark”.

The choir had just finished 
singing at Stalham Academy’s Monday evening concert at St Mary’s Church, when the curate asked children what they thought Christmas was about.

When youngsters called out “Father Christmas”, Mrs McPhee was heard to say that he was make- believe and not real.

Mum Ashleigh Pearson, 26, of Mill Side, Stalham, was there with her seven-year-old daughter, Keira, who she said was upset by the comment. “Where is the Christmas spirit these days?” she added. “I was angry. I gasped in horror, but I managed to convince my daughter that Santa was real when we left.”

Stalham Academy Carol service where the children were told Father Christmas was not real by the curate. Picture: Stalham AcademyStalham Academy Carol service where the children were told Father Christmas was not real by the curate. Picture: Stalham Academy

Among the comments from parents on Facebook was: “Children grow up so fast nowadays, so keeping them believing is precious.”

Another said: “Sorry, my child will not attend any more church services, she would not like it if we said there was no God.”

Mrs McPhee said sorry for the mistake immediately after the service, and the school said it had appreciated her swift apology.

The curate said: “As soon as the words came out of my mouth I knew I had made a huge mistake.

Stalham Junior Academy.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYStalham Junior Academy. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

“I really regret it and the upset it has caused to those who were there and whoever has since heard about it. I love this special time of year and love to see the children, families and others enjoy it, particularly when they come to Christmas church services.

“I hope this Christmas will remain special for the children at Stalham Academy.”

Valerie Moore, chief executive at the Right For Success Trust, which runs the school, said that, unfortunately, it had no control over what a clergywoman was going to say.

She added: “The children were astonished, which is very sad. However, she made a heartfelt apology to us all.

“I don’t like to apportion blame. I love the fact the curate took the time to understand what had happened, understand she had upset people and put it right.

“The school has a fantastic relationship with the church and we would like that to continue.”

What do you think? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE, or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk

30 comments

  • Hi Santa, you didn't bring me that clockwork train that I asked for....I'm still waiting.

    Report this comment

    Rhombus

    Sunday, December 21, 2014

  • And so she should be upset. How do you think I feel?

    Report this comment

    Santa Claus

    Saturday, December 20, 2014

  • Yes, I do exist. It's Jesus that is fictional.

    Report this comment

    Santa Claus

    Saturday, December 20, 2014

  • @Nl. I think you may be missing the point. A professional who's job is completely based on a belief created for the intent of human comfort dismissed another belief upheld by her audience. However incidental the delivery, she should know better than to EVER say such a thing unless specifically invited to discuss the topic.

    Report this comment

    AE

    Friday, December 19, 2014

  • Please, let's stop the sensational reporting and equally sensational comments from people who only know what they've read in a highly inaccurate EDP article. I was there at the service, with my two children, I heard the comment and saw the reaction to it. Rev McPhee didnt act deliberately to upset the children, she made a throw-away aside comment, ill-judged yes, a spur of the moment, but not malicious. Most of the children didnt notice or react, only parents. There were no traumatised, distraught children. The service carried on, the School choir performed brilliantly. Only after did a few parents go onto facebook and whip up a storm. Shame on whoever approached the EDP, blowing the incident out of proportion. I know that Rev McPhee is very upset over this, she never set out to do what she did, so let's not pillory the woman, nor use the incident to attack the school, as some have tried to do. The kids have all but forgotten about it, its about time some Stalham parents did the same and move on. Forgive and forget, thats part of the spirit of Christmas isnt it?

    Report this comment

    NL

    Friday, December 19, 2014

  • Why has this woman been castigated for telling the truth? Perhaps she'll also be good enough to admit that there is no god, no heaven, no hell and no life after death.

    Report this comment

    richard ash

    Friday, December 19, 2014

  • Very sad, but the children of Stalham will recover and come the 25th their belief will be restored. However, childhood is precious, it's all about dreams and magic, Mrs Curate, you were wrong to try and take that away.

    Report this comment

    jojo

    Friday, December 19, 2014

  • She hasn't ever seen God either but she believes in him. Is he any more real than Santa???

    Report this comment

    Emma Watts

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • All this does is again prove how out of touch the church is with reality. There is absolutely no difference between Santa Claus and God, They are both mythical beings invented by man in the planets very recent history. That is fact, so why cannot the church work with facts. Actually this time of the year is all about the Winter Solstice really but if people like to believe differently then that is fine.

    Report this comment

    Retep

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • @Urban Seagull We think that it's wrong to lie to our kids and have been trying to find a good way of explaining the whole Santa thing to them. You have really helped us find a way to phrase it. I just wanted to say thanks. And a merry Christmas to you.

    Report this comment

    Sindig0 .

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • I think the school should now include Father Christmas in the school nativity play, to mend the damage done to these poor children.....'And into the stable bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh came three wise men wrapped in tinfoil and coloured bits of cloth, closely followed by a rotund bearded man from the North Pole with a bag full really good stuff'

    Report this comment

    Rhombus

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • This incident has really annoyed me (as the number of comments I've made testify) and I'm actually a regular churchgoer. What planet is this woman on? People speak of the arrogance and greed of bankers, but how arrogant and selfish was this woman to steal a magical part of Christmas from these children - and she's supposed to be a respected advocate of mutual kindness unlike bankers. Another nail in the coffin for respect towards the church!

    Report this comment

    AE

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • I was brought up to believe that 'Santa Claus' was a game people played at Christmas, but to keep it a secret because some children thought he was real. I was just as excited as any other child, and also learned at an early age when to keep my mouth shut!

    Report this comment

    urban seagull

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • …..Having had another moment to reflect, and trying to get over the shock....I have come to the conclusion that there IS a Father Christmas...and I'm just wondering if the Rev Margaret McPhee is in fact doing a dress rehearsal on his behalf....Dressed in Red...couple of bags half packed....just needs awig and beard to go with those pearly white gnashers....Ho!..Ho!..Ho!....just one more week to go to find out the truth!.....

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • …..Damn !...Damn !...Damn !....I've been trying to get a glimpse of him for the last 80 years, and now some soppy woman says I've been led up the garden path!.....Ten to One she hasn't seen her God either!.....but he pays her wages!....Alf Garnett would have had a few words for her..” Silly Moo!”.....

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • Google the reverend's name, and you'll find that this story is in the Telegraph,The Belfast Telegraph, and the Irish Independent. Oops...

    Report this comment

    Bill Punton's bald patch

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • 'Madam curate, is that a little egg on your face'? 'Why no sir, 'tis but an omlette'

    Report this comment

    Bill Punton's bald patch

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • Double face palm. As a non-believer I find the irony quite amusing.

    Report this comment

    Cyril the Canary

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • I expect the church will respond in their usual, naive, insular way and use it as a local parable of someone sinning and seeking forgiveness and all will be well in their eyes. I would have thought shattering a number of innocent peoples' belief would be a dismissable offence in that profession.

    Report this comment

    AE

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • classic case of the the church preaching there beliefs and not taking others into consideration,

    Report this comment

    66cass

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • Truly shocking! What is Christmas all about if not lying to children?

    Report this comment

    Chris Booty

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • What a silly woman! As Lord Elf suggests, how can someone whose life AND JOB is dedicated to making people believe in far-fetched stories for the purpose of enriching their lives make such a mistake. She shouldn't be let near a school ever again!

    Report this comment

    AE

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • Parent: “Where is the Christmas spirit these days?” she added. “I was angry. I gasped in horror, but I managed to convince my daughter that Santa was real when we left.” This statement sums it up nicely, Christmas is nothing to do with religion to kids or parents it seems. I guess this parent now considers Black Friday to be a Christmas tradition too!

    Report this comment

    KeithS

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • No idea if she was C of E but the newer clerics in that organisation seem to be more evangelical happy clappy and less like old style rectors who extended a welcome to everyone and didn't preach (much) outside of the pulpit .I read a piece by a vicar in a parish magazine the other week which verged on being offensive to those who were not churchgoers or believers in any faith. The parable of the Lost Sheep seems no longer to apply in some of our village churches-fervent followers being preferred to maintaining a good relationship with the people whose ancestors had attended the churches for centuries. The curate in question must have had it seething in her mind during the event for it to pop out like that-not happy unless everyone shares her views maybe?

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • Oh dear. What a mistake to make. I hope that she does something to restore these children's belief.

    Report this comment

    Tracey Clayton

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • The whole Christmas season is a pagan one anyway and has nothing to do with Jesus. It is Yuletide actually

    Report this comment

    Harnser

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • She should be completely truthful then and admit that there is more chance of there being Father Christmas than this mythical figure of a god

    Report this comment

    Harnser

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • Love your comment Lord Elf! :)

    Report this comment

    catalonia13

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • At least some honesty from the church, it's a start not before time either.

    Report this comment

    Gina

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

  • How ironic, considering that McPhee's life is devoted to preaching about a mythical being that doesn't exist.

    Report this comment

    Lord Elf

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

Latest from the EDP

Most Read

Featured Pages

Most Commented

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 19°C

min temp: 15°C

Listen to the latest weather forecast
HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the EDP
digital edition

Subscribe

Newsletter Sign Up