Christmas in the Two Shires Benefice
As I think we all realise, Christmas is going to look and feel very different this year. We don’t yet know what we can and can’t ‘do’ over the festive period in and around our churches, but whatever the possibilities we must be clear on one message. Christmas is not cancelled!
The Church of England ‘theme’ this year is Comfort and Joy. Christmas will be difficult for a great many people this year and more than ever we need to focus on the central message of the Christmas story. That the birth of Jesus brings hope in adversity – that there is real comfort in the incarnation. God is with us.
In that also there is great joy. The Christmas story is an awesome one and is rooted very much in the ordinary, in which the extraordinary occurs. It is God arriving in the everyday – in the moment. We need this message this year.
We don’t know to what extent our church buildings will be able to be used this Christmas. The guidance given by the central church to church leaders is that we should not plan around having services in church, and that if we are able to then that is a bonus. Our focus should be on plans around what we know we can do and do well.
I would like us to do these things this year; drawing on the theme of Comfort and Joy; and hopefully providing access to the Christmas story in an engaging way for the times we are in. To achieve this we will need to work together – and therefore I am asking for your help in anyway you can.
Services in Church
During December, assuming Lockdown 2 ends, we will run the service rota we were using after Lockdown 1.
In addition, if we are able, we will have a service of Holy Communion in each church on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day at 10am.
At this time we are still not allowed to sing congregationally inside or outside. The Church of England are not expecting that to change by Christmas, but discussions are happening. If it becomes possible to have a carol service, inside or outside, then we will try and accommodate it. In the meantime we must plan that we cannot. St Martin in the Fields are recording a wide range of carols for churches to use in recorded and streamed services copyright free and so I will produce two videos for people to access – a traditional nine lessons and carols and a more relaxed carol singalong. We will also do a live carol service on Zoom and make a party of it!
Christingle and Crib Services
These services will be recorded and put online for families to access at home. It would be really nice if we could put together Christingle packs to give to families to use. I would really like to use the Open the Book teams if possible to help with these events.
Journey to the Manger
It would be really great if each church could commit to making a nativity display (to include a manger) that people can visit in the churchyards. In some churches it may be possible for these to be in the church porch, but access will need to be considered. If each church had such a display then there is something that people of all ages can make a ‘mini pilgrimage’ to over the Christmas period. It could also be supplemented by a marked trail around the villages leading to the churchyard, perhaps going through the Christmas story. This will need a small team of people in each village to coordinate and make so please do volunteer!
Christmas Day joy
It is going to be a difficult Christmas for many people, whether they are alone or Christmas this year just presents a significant challenge. Michelle and I are going to drop off a card and a mince pie at households that we know could do with a little extra cheer this year, on Christmas Day. If you would like to join in with that then that would be wonderful. Please could you let me know if you can, but also, and vitally, we need to know which people could do with such a visit on Christmas Day.
In light and love
It would be nice to have a place outside our churches that is lit up (such as a Christmas tree) where people could come and leave prayers / blessings / thoughts. There can also be a prayer station inside churches for when the buildings are open for private prayer.
We need you!
I have asked the Churchwardens to help coordinate church displays and so if you can help with those then please could you get in touch with them direct, or I can direct you if you need details.
If you are happy to either voice record or video record readings, or similarly help with Christingle and Crib service recordings then please also let me know.
Also, as above, please let me know if you can help, or have information for, getting around people on Christmas Day.
Let’s make this the best we can with what we have so that it is not a lost Christmas, but one that can be remembered for the right reasons.