‘Everyone agrees that Christmas is about light, so I think it’s a time to explore the one who claims to be the light’ Brogan Hume, Ordinand at St Thomas’350
Kate Lovell interviewed representatives from three churches in central Newcastle about what these will look like in the midst of the pandemic, especially for students. Matt Elder, Luke Parker and Brogan Hume work for Jesmond Parish Church (JPC), Christchurch Newcastle and St Thomas’ Newcastle respectively.
JPC will hold two student carol services on Thursday 3 December and Saturday 5 December, both at 8pm. While spaces will be limited for these services, the church has said "If these services get booked up, we'll add more services in, so don't worry about filling spaces - get booking on and inviting friends to come too!"
Meanwhile, St Thomas’ have planned an in-person carol service on Sunday 6 December at 4pm. "We have space in our building for up to 75 people with social-distancing," says Brogan, adding, "We will make it work with however many people turn up, even if it means church members have to leave the building to make space for guests."
Christchurch are focusing on building personal connections with people this Christmas. "This year we’re sending a book of Christmas devotions (daily short thoughts on different Bible passages) to everyone in our church, including the students," explains Luke. Church members are also decorating their windows with a different part of the Christmas story to create a Christmas trail for people to follow across the city. Carol services will take place after most students have gone home, with as many as possible planned for Sunday 20 December.
When asked about the biggest challenges posed by COVID-19, a recurrent theme in all three interviews was loneliness. "That’s always a problem at Christmas time," says Luke, "but Covid has amplified it." This has made the Christian message of Christmas, celebrating God being fully present with us in the person of Jesus, harder to transmit. "It’s really hard to communicate the gravity of his physical presence with us when everything is online," says Brogan.
Nevertheless, all three churches have seen a surge of interest in the Christian faith over the last few months, with lots of people getting in touch and streaming the online services. "We’re hoping that the whole Covid situation has caused people to ask bigger questions about where their hope lies at a time like this," says Luke. For these three churches, the priority this Christmas, as ever, is that people hear about Jesus. "It’s easy to make Christmas about parties and presents but it’s really about one person: Jesus Christ," says Matt. Similarly, when asked about the importance of Christmas for him, Brogan said, "Everyone agrees that Christmas is about light, so I think it’s a time to explore the one who claims to be the light."
If you’d like to find out more about carol services in Newcastle or about the Christian message of Christmas, visit the following websites :
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