Non-church Christmas

This year I haven’t been to church for any Christmas festivities.

For all my life I have been to at least 1 carol service a year in a church.  For most of my adult life I have attended or led a Christmas Morning service.  Christmas has been focused on churchgoing.

Of course, over the years I have joined in other Christmas-related concerts and carol sings.  Yet for me, the Church’s Christmas observance has been an integral part of mine.

This year I led 3 Advent services in churches (2 in Celtic Advent weeks – late November -, and 1 in mainstream Advent).  The nearest I got to a Christmas carol was “Joy to the World”.  I didn’t hear the traditional nativity story and associated Bible readings, I didn’t see any dramatic nativity productions, I didn’t experience any Christmassy reflections or sermons from preachers.

Instead my Christmas observance began with outdoor carol singing with a community choir in a picturesque village, followed by a communal fish and chip supper on the way home.  It continued with the concert of my usual community choir – admittedly held in a church and including many Christmas carols plus descants which I thought I’d left behind in my childhood Junior Choir years (Christmas is a challenge for sopranos!).  A couple of evenings in local pubs followed – singing all sorts of carols, especially Local Carols – sung with passion and real enjoyment.  There’s nothing quite like a pint of cider accompanying the basses’ favourite “Diadem” (aka “All Hail the power of Jesu’s name”) – an experience to relish.

Alongside this I continued my rhythm of prayer and focus on Advent themes: the longing for God to come alongside us and save us from destructive behaviour (whether to ourselves or to others) whilst knowing the already-in-place gift fulfilling that desire, the hope that we might realise God’s ways of living for ourselves and together in community, plus all the usual ones of light in the darkness, the coming of love and joy and peace…..

Finally the quiet and understated Christmas Eve communion in my conservatory chapel shared with my son.  Music, words of reflection, wafer and wine, silence, and watching the dark inky sky with the neighbour’s tree silhouetted against it in the street light.  The coming of the Christ Child greeted with a mother-son hug and shared appreciation of the moment.

And so Christmas finally arrived.  Following on the heels of a mindful Advent journey, anticipated in merriment and community, birthed in love. For me one of the most meaningful seasons of Advent & Christmas……

If you would like to read more, find other posts like this in my blog

Dare to Imagine…..

I’m looking forward to reading the latest book delivered through my letterbox.

John Philip Newell, in his book “The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings“, notes the main responses to the collapse of Christianity in the West.  From denial that a collapse is actually happening to the frantic attempt to shore up the basis of the old dispensation he moves to asking “what is trying to be born that requires a radical reorientation of our vision?”

This strikes me as a good question to ponder in this Advent period.  It is a season to acknowledge the decline of the old existence and to be prepared to leave it behind.  It is the time to look forward with hope and anticipation to the new possibilities waiting round the corner yet which are even happening now.

We need new eyes to see what is coming to pass lest we miss it.

I share the frustrations of those who yearn for the church to embrace “a radical reorientation”.  Too often we seem stuck in the task of trying to find new versions of old ways to keep the show on the road.  We massage our denominational statistics to seek a golden nugget in all the dross in order to convince ourselves that things aren’t too bad.

God is doing a new thing!  How often have I proclaimed that? Can we dare to feel excited about that in this moment?  A thrill of possibilities and adventure…… Or will we retreat into the supposed comfort of the familiar?

May we continue to look in anticipation for God’s newness as we await the birth of One regarded as the Saviour ….. who arrives not with sticking plasters but with healing salve and fresh vision.

Read more on our blog.

Sharing Peacemeal


Twice a month we share something called a ‘Peacemeal’ at Open House Sheffield.

In basic terms Peacemeal is a place of discussion and food but as we eat it gives us a chance to learn more about the world and to open us up to being moved to take action with others to make a difference.

Peacemeal is an international initiative based on the ancient idea of peace … meaning “wholeness, harmony, integratedness and wellbeing, throughout humanity and with wild nature.”

Peacemeal has the basic idea that peace in the world always begins with us.

Peacemeal is inspired by the meals Jesus had. He always seemed to enable changes as he ate.  The developers of peacemeal say that Jesus showed “that sharing food created space, where those wishing to follow him, as well as those of different faiths or no faith, were all equally welcomed, honoured and respected. A place to discuss, debate, listen and learn. Somewhere to laugh, sing and even dance sometimes; yet also to share concerns, to cry or be angry about things together. A focus for reflection, silence, meditation and prayer, each engaging with what is deep and true for us personally.”

Why not come along this Friday to our Peacemeal.  More details in our diary.