Ho, ho, no! Scores of Stalham children left distraught after curate says Father Christmas does not exist
12:07 18 December 2014
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.
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.”
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.
“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