As we enter the holiday season, and churches set to reopen for public worship when the lockdown ends on December 2. Leaving many wondering how to safely and joyously celebrate Christmas. Worshipping during virtual Advent and Christmas this year may have unique challenges. But with a little creativity, it’s also an opportunity to create new ways to connect.
While each church will respond differently based on their parish, traditions, and resources, there are a few ideas floating around that we think are worth highlighting.
Singing is such a central part of the Christmas experience. True, this year we can’t gather and sing together. But there is a way to safely put together a virtual Advent or Christmas performance. You can even choose to go live or pre-recorded.
Take some inspiration from renowned virtual choir leader Eric Whitacre. While you won’t need to do the intense sound editing that makes Whitacre’s choir a marvel, using a meeting tool can help take virtual carolling to the next level.
Similarly, whether you are using your phone line or regular updates on YouTube, regular Christmas hymns can bring comfort and joy (had to do it!) to your socially distanced congregants.
The Children’s Christmas Pageant
There is so much creativity to tap into that it should come as no surprise there’s a Virtual Nativity script to help churches continue the nativity tradition. The Good News Goes Viral, is a virtual play specifically scripted for this pandemic. Th programme tells the story of Jesus’ birth in a fun and lighthearted way and with a modern spin.
If this seems a little too silly for your church, here are some ways to think about the programming you’ve done in the past:
- Decide if you want live or a pre-recorded (and edited) event
- Set up a calendar invite and share with parishioners and family members
- Cut your usual Christmas program into bite-sized pieces for participant to contribute
- Recruit children to read, sing, and dress up in costumes or hold props
- Encourage adults to make “settings” using sheets and furniture around the house
- Have the adults responsible for recording and also taking photos to commemorate the moment
- Set up a watch party so everyone can enjoy the final product together!
Drive Through Events
While you may not be able to meet as a full congregation in person, you could consider hosting a drive through event. Here, in a reverse parade, the visitors and parishioners drive through an organised activity, bringing them to your church so you can offer prayer and even small treats. This could comprise:
- Drive through carolling and music
- Drive through Christmas story with readers and actors in different stations reenacting 5 minute segments
- Journey through Bethlehem with a crafty map and scenery you can create a path charting the story of Christmas, from the Angels visit to the Nativity in a manager. Along the way, set up some fundraising opportunities with crafts or food and beverage for sale.
Host an Online Craft Activity
Use simple objects most people have around the house. Create a meeting event where and host a project that is Advent themed. Two fun ideas would involve creating an Advent Wreath or Creche. These family-friendly events can be simple and great for even your youngest parishioners. If possible, get advanced registration and mail out any physical materials people might not have access too, such as printouts. Such as this DIY creche project that is simple and creative.
The common need is for creativity and flexibility. Many traditions need to be modified, but it’s also a time to start new traditions.
So many church leaders are eager to help one another celebrate the season, so we’ve grabbed a few of these to make it easier as you plan your own events.
- Advent Online launched this year as a library of virtual Advent resources for individual Christians and churches. This remarkable project of “3,000 global Christians, involved in leading worship, have gathered together online over the last eight weeks to share their resources, gifts, skills and ideas to plan services and outreach during the Advent and Christmas season. Advent Online has emerged from this wellspring of collegiality, fraternity, and generosity.”
- Watch this Webinar from the Church of England on Nov. 30 to Learn how to Live Stream your Christmas Service and review the materials collected for this year to help you lead your virtual advent programming.
- Listen to this podcast on how to reimagine virtual advent for your church
- The Episcopal Church also pulled together a list of virtual resources and ideas