Last night we held a community carol service in the old chapel building on the estate. The former hospital chapel is currently owned by the Greek Orthodox Church. They generously opened up and allowed us to use the building. The service was led by me and hosted by the Residents Association, but also had significant input from the local Baptist/NFI church and was supported by the local shops too. As it was the first carol service in this community we had no idea how many people would come, but at this time of year many want to go to a traditional style carol service and Christingle services are usually remembered as being fun. We had the additional pull of using the old hospital chapel, which people have walked and driven past many times but never had the occasion to go in. It is a beautiful building, although it needs some maintenance work carried out. Inside, murals are painted on the walls depicting biblical characters. The faces of the characters were based on staff and patients at the old hospital. The Orthodox Church have added to the decor with a lot of icons and candles, adding to the traditional atmosphere of the place.
It was simply advertised on notice boards around the estate and on two local newsletters that go through people’s doors. In the end we had over 140 people, including many children. We were disappointed that a brass band that was booked were unable to come due to the snow, but that didn’t dampen the atmosphere too much. The snow which had been falling since mid-afternoon had stuck to the ground and gave a lovely winter look to the church. The service itself was traditional with well known carols, a Bible reading, prayers, and an all-age talk. We decided to do a Christingle because members of the residents association had suggested it (non-church-goers at that!). Halfway through the children came up and received a Christingle and then paraded around the church with their candles lit. Once everyone had their candle, the lights went out and we sang ‘Away in a Manger’ and ‘Silent night’ just by the light of the candles. It was a lovely spiritual moment. (Photo just before the lights went out)
Overall, I am very pleased with the way the service went, both with numbers and the participation from other churches and organisations. During the mulled wine and hot chocolate afterwards, I also had a chance to make more connections with people who live around us, which is one of the main aims at this stage in the pioneering.
Update: I’ve just been sent this excellent photo of the Christingle lights: