As we move through Advent, the challenges of Covid-19 have forced our local congregations to re-think the beloved holiday traditions. Ideas varied at the time of the SNEUCC Covid survey taken in October. 269 of our 608 congregations responded to the question about Advent and Christmas worship. Many were still in planning stages at that point and many were beginning to develop creative new ways to celebrate the birth of Christ.
|27%||still planning or undecided at the time of the survey|
|16%||hybrid: online/indoors in person|
The majority will use some online component, either Zoom, live stream, or recorded worship. Many were inspired by Marcia McFee’s Worship Design Studio which sparked ideas for virtual worship. (Note: SNEUCC Conference made this resource available to all local churches at no cost. Stay tuned for Marcia’s Lenten Planning program.)
Comments revealed a sense of loss and frustration over ever-changing guidelines. Pastors are watching infection rates, following local health guidelines, incorporating new tech skills, and balancing many demands.
- Covid infection is rising everywhere and I expect the Governor to limit inside gatherings and I expect more folks to be afraid of going inside as it gets colder - including me. If that is the case, we'll go back to Zoom worship when it is cold. Already considered Zoom Advent study and Christmas Eve outside with candlelight and humming carols with masks and social distancing. It's all up in the air....which is stressful.
- We are exploring creative uses of our building as a visible light in the midst of darkness and a touchstone for our surrounding neighborhood as we journey through Advent and into the winter months.
Parishioners miss gathering in the sacred space of their meetinghouses. Some churches are opening the sanctuary for limited access or will them as backdrops for recorded worship
- If online, we will be able to have some spectacular effects with a candlelight service in our empty Sanctuary that holds nearly 900.
- We are thinking about setting up stations in the Sanctuary and inviting people to come in for an Advent pilgrimage at designated times during the week. Deacons would take turns monitoring people entering, keeping the number limited, etc. We want to really decorate the space and have carols playing so that people can touch base with the space. Even to come in a pray for a few minutes. I think Christmas apart will be the hardest thing yet. We will always have recordings each week, no matter what else is happening.
- We will continue to do our Las Posadas procession a week or two before Christmas down Main St., with social distancing.
- We might work with other churches in the area for a traveling Christmas Eve service, "Following the Star." We'll walk to the various churches and hold a short outdoor prayer/reading.
- We hope to invite the town to gather outside for some sort of brief service in the evening to hear the Christmas story and listen to a duo or quartet sing 'Silent Night.'
Debby Kirk is the Faith Formation Team Leader of the Southern New England Conference. She serves on the Faith Formation Team and oversees the Youth and Young Adult Ministries programs of the Conference. She organizes leadership development programs ...