How can we reconnect with our communities in the run-up to Christmas this year?
This page has a range of different ideas, both practical and spiritual, to inspire us to reach out beyond our church walls.
Spiritual resources for Advent will be added from mid-November, as most online offerings are not available before that.
Our diocese is promoting the ecumenical Love Christmas campaign this year. It brings change by drawing people together to give, pack, deliver and share Bags of Kindness with each other. It strengthens personal connections in communities across the UK and lets people know we are with them, and they are not alone. Find out more here: https://northamptondiocese.org/love-christmas-2021/ and join us on a webinar on 18th November here:
Advent Online Retreat: Lift up your eyes and see!
In the run up to Christmas, it’s so hard to make time for God. This year we are offering an online retreat on Monday evenings through Advent so that everyone can have that opportunity. Join Canon John Udris and Avril Baigent as they explore the lives of some key Advent saints, helping us to shift our gaze heavenwards, and exploring God’s promises and providence.
With plenty of time for prayer and contemplation, seize the opportunity to switch off from all the pressures on us and just ‘be’. Who could you invite to take part?
Register here: https://lift_up_your_eyes.eventbrite.co.uk
Reaching the missing groups
Who were we missing, and what could we do to reach them?
Some of the key groups we want to reach include:
- Those who are house-bound or shielding
- Those who do not have access to the internet
- Those who have been bereaved or have lost their jobs
- Those who have not come back to Mass
- Seekers – those who have accessed our online services, and would like to know more.
Small groups through Advent: this could be done online using Fr Denis McBride’s wonderful “Stations of the Infancy”, a set of 14 reflections with scripture, prayer and a piece of art, another Advent book, or reflecting on the Sunday readings each week. Another idea to to hold something similar to a bookclub, where people could share a variety of different things they’d been reading, but with prayer and reflection.
Outdoor cribs Lots of possibilities here including an external prayer service, lighting candles, or just having a large lantern beside the crib. One idea is to add elements over the weeks so that people would be drawn to visit it repeatedly.
Bambinelli Sunday, started by Pope John Paul II, is when people can bring their Christ Child figures down to St Peter’s Square to be blessed on the Third Sunday of Advent. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-12/pope-angelus-invitation-to-joy-on-bambinelli-sunday.html This could be adapted for use in parishes including inviting children to dress up in nativity outfits. It could be advertised in school newsletters as a special outreach to families.
Jesse Trees are a wonderful home devotion – these can be ordered from the Bible Society for a donation, or you can make your own: https://cathfamily.org/making-your-own-jesse-tree/.
Teresa Brown developed a wonderful Advent Candle print out activity that can be used with families and everyone. Each week, a different candle is put into the window, counting up to Christmas Day. Download the templates here and also jpeg versions that can be put on parish websites:
Last year Sr Dympna and Rosemarie Langley created pray-at-home sheets for the housebound. People can ring up and request them. See below for an example:
Other ideas for parishes:
Walk-through nativity trails – activities for families and everyone, including a torch-lit walk exploring darkness and light.
Carol services and Christingles as outreach – not for our usual crowd, but deliberately setting out to bring new people into church.
Resources for a “Blue Christmas” – helping those suffering loss or despair this Christmas.
Nativity Play – a Very Zoom Christmas. Our parish managed to film a nativity on zoom with children in separate houses. It took a bit of planning, but they really enjoyed taking part, especially choosing their own zoom backgrounds! This could be part of a live-streamed or recorded Christmas service.
Connecting to those you are missing:
Families: Advent activities, Christmas Card with live-stream service details, Bible Society Jesse Tree
House-bound: pray for parish groups through Advent, printed prayer and Scripture resources
Seekers: advertise your Christmas services and design with seekers in mind
Post-Lockdown Church Webinars
You might find our webinar series from last year helpful for specific ideas:
Week 1: Bishop David – The Church as new reality
Week 2: Brenden Thompson – Just try it
Week 3: Francis Davis – Find out where the needs are
Week 4: Hannah Vaughan Spruce – Plan something excellent you can invite your friends to
Week 5: Fleur Dorrell – Lamenting is also part of the Christian life
Week 6: Veronica and Alex – Accompaniment encourages families to walk with each other in faith
Week 7: David Wells – Go and seek joy, don’t wait for it to come to you