Reflection on Christmas 2012

First Christmas in a new parish: no pressure then.

After seven years getting STE to the place where I wanted it to be, the experience of working in a new setting was bound to be a challenge, particularly when one follows an Incumbent of more than 20 years. However, I have nothing but fulsome praise for the regulars of Bickleigh and Shaugh Prior, Glenholt and Woolwell: they have shown commitment and energy, enthusiasm and willingness to join me in a new journey.

However a couple of encounters with strangers whose only visit to the Church is at this time of year left me a little taken aback, depressed even. At the door of the Church after 9 Lessons and Carols one man “demanded” that the Crib Service be brought back. This was the day before the service, and although it was called something different he had no idea what the content was. It was quite an aggressive challenge as well “a lot of people are very disappointed there isn’t a crib service”.  I didn’t have the wit (nor the grace) to deftly reply with “well, if you come you might just find out what it contains”, for the tone was just so… oppositional. I had to reply that I wasn’t Fr Roger and I needed to offer what I offered, not a pastiche of a previous incumbent’s ministry. He didn’t leave me a script anyway. The Script of my Christingle Service is well documented  but quite rightly, STE did something new and different: utilising the skills and charism of the person leading it. Despite it being called a Christingle Service, there is a huge focus on the Crib. He wouldn’t know that, of course, but he and his family clearly weren’t interested in discovering that.

On Christmas Eve morning, Liam and I are setting up the projector screen, and a couple come in. As we were leaving to set up S. Edward’s, we are chatting and she asks “But would Fr Roger approve?” I wouldn’t know, he’s no longer the Incumbent…

“But would Fr Roger approve?” has rapidly become the response of choice to everything in the parish. It’s gone from hugely annoying to rather funny in a few days.

Nine Lessons & Carols

I have done three church Nine Lessons and Carol services, as well as a couple of school ones. The Church services were the classically traditional service, with that lovely introduction first said by Dean Milner-White:

And because this of all things would rejoice his heart, let us remember, in his name, the poor and helpless, the cold, the hungry, and the oppressed; the sick and them that mourn, the lonely and the unloved, the aged and the little children; all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love.

Lastly, let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore, and in a greater light, that multitude which no man can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom in the Lord Jesus we are for ever one.

I tend to want these services to be filled with what I lovingly called “cheesy classics” – not meant in a disparaging way but which people know and love. There is a time to be challenging and subversive to the form, but this is not it. All of the services were received well. Many positive comments.

42 Cdo Carols

See here for my report on this. Great to do, fun to be a part of. Glad to serve them.

Christingles

Three 45 minute services over 3 hours in 2 different locations: hard work. Lots of people came. It was just how I love it: chaotic, rabbellous and very very child focused. This wasn’t about looking at a pretty crib, but getting involved: we sang carols, we hunted the church for Nativity Figures, we made our Nativity, we made our own Christingles. The service was squarely focused at young people, many of whom I already knew through my school ministry.

It was fun, it was full of jokes, classic carols and yet still kept pointing back to the reason for the season.

Projector Screen at St Mary’s only hampered by the sheer numbers which was standing room only. TVs at t Edwards. Both worked well. Sound could have been better. There will be improvements next year. Learn.

At S. Edward’s

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DSC_1965 - Copy christingle

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feedback was hugely positive:

“Hearing my three small grandchildren sing Away in a Manger brought tears to my eyes.Beautiful.”

another person came up afterwards full of appreciation saying that the worship was “an inspiration”, and yet another visitor described me as “the Harry Hill of the Church” which I think was a compliment… I think.

Three left me completely exhausted, but it was O so worth it.  Improvements will be made, as you have to experiment with a service in a new sacred space.

Am I going to bring back the old Crib service? (if I ever thought it was possible). Oh no. This is too good to move away from…

Midnight Mass

I was only able to say the Midnight at Bickleigh whilst the Archdeacon celebrated at Shaugh Prior. I understand that went well, despite the flooding of the previous weekend.

At Bickleigh we had an MC (Liam) and a Thurifer (Zoe). It was so good to have servers, and my task for 2013 is to get that set up. Unfortunately due to illness,  I was not as well prepared as I should be: The people worked really hard, but I missed some key things required in the setup and so consequently, I felt very untogether. Liam was brilliant at helping me round the problems, Zoe was proficient and capable. Good numbers: about 80 people, the majority of which were communicant.

To the congregation, it went well. It’s always a bit like a swan: serene to the public, and paddling hard below the surface. My homily was full of the spooky mysterious, which unfortunately didn’t record properly. I love Midnight Mass, and consider it a privilege to celebrate. Always.

Mass of Christmas Day

Much more relaxed, and in a good mood despite the complete state of exhaustion now descended upon me. I didn’t have a server (Oh how I want a regular server) but it went all fine: a lovely service. Reasonable numbers at Mass.

Summary

The regular members of the congregations worked so hard to help me deliver this Christmas, and I would like to record my thanks to them. We worked well together as a team and I look forward to making it work even better next year. God is good, and the Incarnation was well and truly proclaimed.