Devon Churches Get Creative for a Covid-Safe Christmas

Posted: 1st December, 2020

Churches across Devon are planning a mix of online and in person Christmas services and events this year in order to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a safe and inclusive way.

Starcross in south Devon is holding a Christmas Carol Trail from 13 December. Homeowners have been invited to decorate their window or front garden as their favourite Christmas carol.

Organiser Claire Johns said, “We hope that choosing a carol to decorate will encourage thinking about the true meaning of the celebration of Christmas.

“It will give old and young an entertaining way to walk around the streets of the village.

“In a year when we cannot have our usual Carols and Christingle celebrations it is something different to do.”

Down the road in Dawlish, churches are working with the council and other community organisations to hold a drive-in carol service on Sunday 20 December.

People are being encouraged to bring festive food and drink and decorate their cars with Christmas lights.

The organisers, Redeeming Our Community,  have got an FM licence so motorists can tune in their car radios to hear the service and join in the songs without opening their windows.

At St Hieritha’s church in the north Devon village of Chittlehampton, a decorated horse and cart and team of singers will travel around the village playing Christmas carols on or around 19 December.

There will also be a village crib and coloured lights on the church to tell the Christmas story.

In Woolsery, from 20 to 23 December, scenes from the nativity narrative will be displayed outside seven homes across the village.

Local school children and youth club members have recorded seven audio Christmas dramas which people can download and listen to on their phone as they view the scenes.

A local knitting group is knitting multi-coloured sheep to give to everyone who completes the trail.

St Pancras Church in PLymouth has a community advent calendar window

The Reverend Jane Skinner said “These will be the ‘take away gift’ at the church.

“We are going to ask people to put these in their window at home and are looking forward to a rainbow flock around Woolsery.”

On 6 December there will be an outdoor service in the North Devon village of Roborough starring Daphne and Delilah the donkeys.

In Plymouth, The doors of St Pancras parish centre have been turned into a giant advent calendar, with drawings done by local children.

Nearby Emmanuel Church is delivering 2000 Christmas cards to families.

Last week the Government confirmed that carol singing outdoors could go ahead under the new tier systems, as well as traditional nativity plays for under 18s.

Advent and carol services can take place inside churches, with music provided by a choir or singing group.

Congregational singing is still not allowed in church buildings.

St Mark’s Church in Exeter wants to make sure that families don’t miss out on traditional Christmas experiences like pantomimes.

On 12 December, the Oddments Theatre Company will be performing a comedic version of the nativity story at the church.

The church is also mindful of those who will find Christmas lonely or painful this year. It is a holding a Blue Christmas service on 22 December.

The curate, the Reverend Tatiana Wilson, said, “We recognise that for some this Christmas may be particularly hard for whatever reason (bereavement, illness, estrangement, worry) and so we are offering a contemplative service and will open the church to create a space for people to reflect, recall and regroup.”

Many churches, along with Exeter Cathedral will be operating a booking system for their Carols by Candlelight services in order to ensure social distancing.

A number of churches will be putting on extra carol services to make sure everyone who wants to come can.

Christmas events will also be taking place online so people who are self-isolating or who would prefer to stay at home can take part.

St Michael’s and St David’s churches in Exeter are running Thrive, a Sunday afternoon Advent course for people to ask big questions about life, on Zoom.

Shirwell Mission Community is holding an “unrehearsed nativity service” on Zoom on Christmas Eve.

The church in Hemyock is delivering “Christingle in a Bag” kits to local homes, including the orange, candle and sweets needed to make a Christingle. They will then hold an online Christingle service and encourage people to carry their Christingle orange outside their front doors and light their candles.

In the Ashburton and Moorland Mission Community on Dartmoor, the online carol service will feature a carol filmed at each of the five churches and filmed Christmas readings starring members of the community.

There are also plans for a Christmas Eve nativity trail around Ashburton, starting with an appearance by the Angel Gabriel at the Post Office and a visit to the Town Hall to hear about the Census from the Mayor, before going to a local B&B to find out if there is any room at the inn.

The Team Rector, the Right Reverend Mark Rylands, said, “We are trying to be creative and keep people safe.

“We want to do something where people can join in and remember the core Christmas message that God is with us and we are not alone.”