It looks like many UK churches are going to be able to put on something in person over Christmas. But there’s a key question we need to be asking. Who will come?
Back in August, cinemas hosted the new Christopher Nolan blockbuster Tenet. It was well trailed and heavily marketed. Yet it flopped in terms of box office attendance.
We could discuss the merits of the film another time (I loved it!) but the stark reality is captured in the Yahoo film reviewer comment; ‘Who on earth wants to go to the cinema in a face mask?’
Here in Harborough, we’re planning some in-person Christmas activities within the guidelines. But we’re also trying to be realistic and acknowledge that the already high bar to church attendance as a guest has been ramped up a little more by the current restrictions. Who on earth wants to sit for an hour through a carol service in a face mask?
I’m personally hoping and praying that some of those I invite might come to something physical: I am not, I hope, a defeatist. But I am also a realist, and so it seems to me that the most productive things we could plan for this Christmas are going to be very different from 2019.
Which brings me to Home for Christmas. This is a joint initiative between Phil Moore working alongside some of the musicians from Cornerstone Nottingham, Grace Community Church Bedford and Grace Church Cambridge, and publisher 10ofthose.
It’s pre-packaged carol service on a CD. Carols, readings and a talk (in two parts) by Roger Carswell. I’ve had the joy (and it was a joy!) of listening to it all, and it’s excellent. Really very good indeed.
The eight carols are high quality, foot tapping, renditions of some well-known favourites alongside a few newer items. This is not Carols from Kings with their slightly twee arrangements. I know people like those kinds of things (I do too), but it is not what most of our church music normally sounds like, so I really appreciate that Phil and the music team have worked hard to put something together that you can listen to and think ‘oh yes, not heard it like this before, but I really like this!’
The newer carols may be unfamiliar but don’t feel out of place. They enhance rather than detract from the whole thing, because it feels appropriate in a service you listen to, to include some of these less well-known items. I particularly enjoyed hearing Sally Jackman’s beautiful voice.
There are three readings and the two-part talk is – as you might expect, from Roger – engaging and clear. Both last about 6 minutes: a good length and with some depth as well as a clear invitation to repent and turn to Christ.
I can certainly see us making use of this. It could be just the thing to put through the door of a neighbour. Alongside the CD, which you can get for as little as £1 if you’re prepared to buy 100, Phil is going to graciously make the videos of the carols available for you to use copyright free in your online and streamed services.
Not everyone has a CD player of course, so there’s going to be a website with a video version of the service and the link will be on the CD cover. Phil will also make the QR code available for you to put on other resources (though if you do this, you should certainly consider making a donation towards the production costs, something you can do on the website).
And the fact that Roger quotes my all-time favourite carol lyric ‘Our God contracted to a span’ just puts the icing on the Christmas cake.
Highly recommended. Get your order in and get the gospel out.