Christmas remains the biggest connection we have with those, at present, beyond the Church. What amazes me is how many Churches seem to ignore this fact and allow it to come and go without engaging with many people beyond their usual community of influence. Why is this? One reason seems to be the old chesnut – busyness. Christmas means people are busy and it seems many Churches presume, therefore, people are too busy to be bothered with what we might have to offer.
Tradition may not be popular within the Church (yeah, I know it depends what and who you’re talking about) but they sure packed into Bristol Cathedral last Sunday evening. It was quite a sight to see people queuing up to get in across College Green. The irony was the service was put on, as each year, by Woodlands – a relatively ‘new’ Church. They did the traditional thing – and they did it well. What they have, it seems, what the normal Cathedral congregation doesn’t have is – friends to invite along. I realise, it’s a service put on to serve Christians across Bristol and I saw many people there I knew from different places, but the fact that about 140 took discovery packs out of a congregation of around 1200 was pretty good in anybodies book.
I always reckon the carol service is a good thermometer of how many friendly contacts any Church has – for most Churches it’ll be the biggest gathering of the year. If you don’t have at least three times your weekly gathering of different faces at your Christmas Carol Service, I’d be bothered because these people are the nearest group you’ll have to finding faith. One unusual thing about Christmas is, it’s easy to deliver what people expect and what people want – do it well and you’ll make an impact (a pastor’s delight). All I suggest is this year you count ‘em in and decide what you’ll do about the result. If you get less than three times normal, I’d cancel a few of those meetings next year and send people on a how to make friends course with a practical assignment wherever they want. Of course, if we don’t have ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ at ours, I’ll be disappointed – it’s my favourite carol, but I’ll get over it if someone new comes along.