Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Christmas is coming!!!

As this Sunday is Christ the King Sunday it means we have arrived at the end of this liturgical year and will be staring the new one with the First Sunday in Advent.
The beginning of Advent signals the start of our preparations for Christmas and inevitably the Circuit Carol Service which is probably one of my least favourite events. I am not sure how this works in other circuits or even if other circuits have a Circuit Carol Service, but in our case it is organised by a different minister each years with a planning group made up of two representatives of all 10 churches in the circuit. In my experience it has always included an item from each of the ten churches and featured only traditional hymns and carols. Now I have no problem with traditional carols but really do feel it would be good if we could include the odd more modern carol or Christmas Hymn, and not have to have every church taking part. In fact two years ago I went as one of our church representatives and stuck my head over the parapet to suggest some modernisation and perhaps a shift of organisation so that the churches in the section of the minister leading on this actually planned and took part in the event. This was met with some degree of disdain and comments like ‘What’s wrong with traditional music?’ and ‘It wouldn’t be a Circuit Service if we weren’t all involved!’ I decided it was probably best to shut up and with a group of five likeminded people we organised an alternative Carol event on a different night which wasn’t particularly well attended but enjoyed immensely by those who did.
Last year I happened to be missing because in the middle of summer someone had booked me to take a service on the night that turned out to be the Circuit Carol Service. My son has been to the first planning meeting this year and it seems as if we will be getting much of the same again. I am not out preaching this year (yet) so may have to attend!
I wonder if any readers have any experiences from their own situations they might like to share – who knows next year we might be able to do it differently if some good suggestions come up and I feel brave enough to suggest them.
Over to you.


Anonymous said...

Last year, I tried an 'Alternative Carol Service'. Rather than just hymns, I wanted to encourage people to take part. Well, part of it was my mistake in not being clear about what would happen. The church was TERRIFIED before the night. I mean it. Anyway, I found some folk willing to take part: the Brownies made a huge Jesse Tree; my wife and I did a sketch on Adam and Eve; the choir did sing some traditional music; but one guy wrote a song for the event! All in all it was a great time.

Still, this year, the self-appointed church spokesman came to me and suggested we return to our traditional format. I could do 'my thing' some other day. He said I didn't understand the power of hymns this time of year. When I suggested I did understand, but what about all the other carol services that are on, he replied that I didn't understand the power of them in 'your own church'. We are only worried about what is good for us. So, I am going to do the alternative on Christmas Eve at a smaller church, who seem to like the idea a lot better.

planty said...

Personally I can't stand the modern hymns and that's not just at Christmas. Old hymns/carols had a powerful, belting, uplifting feel to them compared to the "happy clappy" post 70's hymns.

At our church we tried a "modern carol service" a couple of years back where we tried some new carols and ideas etc and it just felt as a Church we were servicing ourselves.

There is a campaign at the moment in the UK "Come Home for Christmas", coming to Church for the first time for years for a Carol Service and seeing something totally unidentifiable would not be that welcoming. I'm sure that is how most in attendance at the service we had felt the same.

Give me a brass band, some traditional carols and a Church full of people I've never seen before anyday!

Anonymous said...

planty, I hear your point about coming into something unidentifiable. But, as our culture becomes more and more disconnected with the church, I imagine that for many who have never been to church (or even those who have, but a long time ago), even a carol service may be either unidentifiable or inaccessible. They may know about a tradition carol service (there's not a lack of them around), but really not want anything to do with it.

I'll take a brass band, though. That would shake things up.

Methodist Preacher said...

I recently went to a Carol Service at a local independent church. Having leafletted the area and invited quite a few people I know that the "newcomers" were really disappointed with the choice of non-traditional hymns. Sometimes its hard....