Sharing 'Comfort and Joy' as churches prepare for a different Christmas

From online carol services and nativity trails, to meditations and ‘at home’ seasonal packs, churches across the Diocese are preparing for an Advent and Christmas like no other.

While it is still not clear what the precise restrictions might be around Christmas itself, gatherings are likely to be smaller and most of us are much more likely to be at home.

At St Gabriel’s in Kings Hill they have started early by asking residents who can afford to do so, to put up their Christmas lights through this latest period of lockdown, and on into December.

Rev Mark Montgomery, vicar of St Gabriel’s says that the Light up to Bright up initiative was a chance to bring the community together around the message of hope found in the Christmas story and remind them of the ways their local church was there to support them:

“At Christmas we talk about Jesus coming as the ‘light of the world’ to bring hope to those in darkness and a light no darkness can put out. This just felt like a simple and very visible way to brighten up the community and bring hope to others that there is light at the end of the darkness.

“We had one public health worker message us to say that they had just finished a shift at the hospital and seeing the lights had really cheered them up.”

This year will also see all the Advent and Christmas services at St Gabriel’s take place in local car parks.

Like many churches, King Charles the Martyr in Tunbridge Wells is planning to engage people both on and offline, as the Rev Laurence Powell explains:

“On Advent Sunday, we’ll be launching our Advent Calendar. Each day throughout Advent we will release a video on Facebook and on Youtube of a pre-recorded piece of music, performed by our choir before lockdown, followed by a prayer for the day.

“It’s a simple idea, but we think it will be a lovely way to share this season of preparation with others and we would be delighted for other churches to share and use this material as well if they find it helpful.”

The online Advent calendar will be complemented by a physical book of prayers which will be delivered to all those within the church who do not have access to the internet, so they can be connected.

"While we have taken the decision not to hold our usual Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, instead, we will share a live service of meditations and pre-recorded music to mark the dawning of Christmas Day."

The church is also working closely with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, The Forum music venue and other local businesses and organisations to see if it is possible - restrictions permitting - to hold their Christmas Eve nativity service on the Common opposite the church.

If it is possible, Laurence says it could be a wonderful occasion: 

"Though numbers will be limited and this will be a ticketed event - holding the service in a large open air space means we can accommodate more families than we currently can within our church building. It’s a superb opportunity to work with our local community and we hope that Christmas eve shoppers and passers by will be able to glimpse something of the true meaning of Christmas."

Over at St Michael and All Angels, Wilmington in Dartford they have chosen to engage the community with a trail of ‘Advent Windows’.

On each day of Advent, a new window will be lit up in the parish which will be decorated in a creative and seasonal way. A list of all the streets where the window will light up will be made available, but not give the house number.  

Rev Carl Chambers, Vicar of St Michael and All Angels says: We hope that people will enjoy the chance to walk around the parish and spot the windows which will be ‘lit up’ for certain hours of the evening.”

In the Parish of Holy Trinity South Chatham, there are plans for an online Nativity Service for Christmas Eve, with characters from the story embarking upon a social media presence and special appearances in the community during the month of December.

At St Mary and St Barnabas, Gillingham, the Rev Liz Cox, says their plans for a 'virtual Christingle' will engage the many schools in the two parishes - a Christingle is a symbolic object, usually made with an orange, candle and sweets, to help tell the Christmas story:

"We are going to make a short YouTube video and give it to the schools along with a bag for every child containing the things they will need to make their own Christingle which they can either do in the classroom or at home.

"On Christmas Eve, the two churches will come together to do a 'walk through Crib service' at St Barnabas. We will be open for two hours from 3pm to 5pm and family groups, who will be able to book time slots to walk through as we retell the story. Later at 11.30 we will meet at St Mary’s to celebrate a said midnight Mass."

Many churches will also be engaging with the national Church of England Advent and Christmas Campaign called Comfort and Joy.

Through online reflections, podcasts, prayers, plus through a selection of printed materials, this campaign invites everyone to take comfort from knowing that God is with us, and where it occurs, allowing ourselves to be surprised by moments of joy.

For more about Comfort and Joy, and resources to help churches with their Advent and Christmas plans visit: www.churchofengland.org/resources/preparing-advent-christmas-2020-comfort-and-joy

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Get in touch

If you would like to share with us how you will be doing Advent and Christmas differently this year, or if you would like to let us know how your church has been offering comfort and joy throughout this time, please email: communications@rochester.anglican.org

 




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