Diocese of Portsmouth

    Worshippers find innovative ways to celebrate Christmas

    3 Dec. 2020

    CHURCHGOERS are finding innovative ways to celebrate Christmas this year amid Covid restrictions.

    They’re organising outdoor, drive-in and digital carol services and Christmas activities to ensure that worshippers can mark the birth of Jesus without transmitting the virus.

    Congregations are allowed to sing carols outdoors, in town and village squares, high streets and churchyards, whereas only choirs and worship groups are allowed to sing carols at services held inside churches. Many of those Nine Lessons and Carols services are also being live-streamed so people can take part from home.

    St Barnabas Church, Swanmore, is organising a drive-in carol service in the Swanmore Village Hall car park – as a follow-up to the drive-in service it held in the summer. Drivers will be allowed to sing in their cars with their household bubbles. The service is taking place in partnership with Swanmore Parish Council and Swanmore Methodist Church, from 6pm on December 20. Details are here.

    Young people from St Barnabas have also pre-recorded a Nativity play, which will be premiered online at 5pm on Christmas Eve – when they would normally have performed it in church. It will end with a version of ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’, with lines sung and recorded remotely by different members of the church. Find details on www.stbarnabas.org.uk/whats-on

    Worshippers at St Jude’s Church, Southsea, will hold a carol service with a limited congregation at 7pm on December 20. Small groups of carol singers will also sing on street corners around Southsea and invite residents to listen and join in from their windows and doorsteps. They hope to cover at least nine different streets over three evenings on December 21, 22 and 23.

    Portsmouth Cathedral is holding six identical carol services from December 20 until Christmas Eve to cope with the likely demand. Worshippers can listen to carols sung by Portsmouth Cathedral Choir and Bible readings, which will be read by church, civic and community leaders. Two of the services – at 6.30pm on December 22 and 6.30pm on Christmas Eve – will also be live-streamed on Facebook and Youtube.

    And one special carol service on December 21 will be devoted to ‘Pompey Heroes’ – individuals who have been nominated by others because of their kindness during the Covid pandemic. They include key workers, NHS staff, kind neighbours and those who went the extra mile to help others.

    Those living in Sarisbury Green are being invited to record themselves singing at home for Virtual Community Carol Services. The videos of people singing traditional carols will be edited together and broadcast during services led by St Paul’s, Sarisbury Green, on December 20, Christmas Eve and December 27. You can download the lyrics and backing tracks from www.spsg.org.uk/carols.

    And worshippers from Whiteley Church will be among those encouraging local people to stand on their doorsteps and sing carols as they are being played on the radio. Doorstep Carols is an initiative that has involved local BBC and commercial radio stations across the country. It happens from 6pm-7pm on December 16, and details are on www.doorstepcarols.co.uk

    The congregations from Holy Trinity and St Columba, Fareham, have contacted those who lost loved ones during 2020 with a ‘bag of hope’. Because the churches were unable to welcome bereaved families for its regular November service to remember loved ones, they have sent each person a bag, which includes a prayer card, a floating candle and a tulip bulb, all of which can be used as part of their reflections at home. There is also a star onto which each person can write the name of their loved one, bring it to church and hang it on the Christmas tree there (or their tree at home). The churches are open from 10am-12noon on Saturday mornings.

    Other churches are offering innovative activities for families and others looking to experience festive fun. St John’s Church, Locks Heath, is creating an Advent Trail during December. Every day, a new Advent window will be created in a home in the local area. Families and others can walk around the neighbourhood spotting the themed windows as they appear. You can also download a map of locations from www.stjohnslocksheath.org.uk/adventwindows

    Families are being invited to a ‘Christmas Journey Experience’ at St Thomas Church, Bedhampton, between 3pm and 6pm every day from December 12 until Christmas Eve. Visitors will be able to walk through the Nativity story in the grounds of the church, in Bidbury Lane. They’ll hear the story playing on their phones and be able to place a token in the manger as they reach the stable.

    Worshippers in Bedhampton will also be at the forefront of the digital experiences of Christmas this year. The church will premiere the Bedhampton Community Nativity Movie, which tells the Nativity story with songs and scenes recorded in people’s homes. It will be available on December 19 on www.bedhampton.church.

    Undaunted that their popular Live Nativity couldn't be repeated this year, St Faith's Church, Lee-on-the-Solent, decided to take to the screen. The result is an original 15-minute film, 'Your King Has Come,' featuring scenes with over two dozen performers in bubbled family groups. It was written by local children’s author Donna Vann, a member of the St Faith’s congregation, who created the scripts for the Live Nativity last year and also wrote new material to suit this year’s bubbled actors.

    "It was a challenge to keep everyone two metres away from cameras and mics," said the Rev Dr Mary Kells, curate at St Faith's. "We also had a one-way system for rehearsals and Covid-safe props and costumes, all of which was tricky. But the result was worth it."

    Your King has Come will be shown at 4pm on December 13 and 20  at the socially-distanced Christingle family services and twice on Christmas Eve, at 4pm and 6pm. It will also be streamed on the St Faith's Facebook page and YouTube site over Christmas. Pre-booking a table for the Christingle Services is essential, and may be done by emailing here.

    Cast members record the Nativity story at St Faith's, Lee-on-Solent
    Julia and Emily Hayes install the Nativity tableau in All Saints Church, Botley

    At All Saints Church, Botley, they’ve installed a Nativity tableau between the main doors and the church itself. This includes life-size images of characters from the story of Jesus’s birth, and will evolve every week through Advent and Christmas, ending with the wise men at Epiphany in January.

    And worshippers from St Mary's Church, Alverstoke, decided that their annual Christmas Tree Festival could be a virtual one this year. They've produced a digital festival, which includes the chance to see trees decorated by local organisations, and features music from local groups and singers. You can see it for yourself here:

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