Monday, 27 December 2010

Home for Christmas

I made a decision early on in the preparations for being Vice-President that for Christmas I would stay at home in Newcastle joining my colleagues for the many and varied activities of the city centre church, Brunswick Methodist in Newcastle upon Tyne where I do my 'normal job' as part of the team.

Advent began early on 25th November when I participated in the lighting of the Norwegian Christmas Tree outside of the Civic Centre as part of the City Centre chaplaincy team. The Norwegian tree is given every year as a thanksgiving to the city from the people of Norway for their support during the second World War.

At Brunswick we believe Advent provides a wonderful opportunity to share the story of God with the many people who come into and use our building. Our Christmas Tree (15ft) goes up ready for Advent Sunday as do all our decorations.

We take the view that when the city has put up all its lights and decorations we will put up our decorations, especially in the church entrance where we place the nativity scene as a reminder to people of the story of God. The decorations themselves provide a great opportunity to convey the message of Christmas. This year we purchased the beautiful 'Follow Him' posters from CPO and hundreds of copies of 'A Gift of Christmas' from the Methodist Church to give away. One of our volunteers made a great PowerPoint for the large screen in our foyer of all the Christmas services in addition to leaflets of service times etc.

We are always delighted to provide Carol Services for our Projects and groups (we never charge but we do accept donations, often discovering the donations are usually greater than our charges!)

In addtion to our usual Carol Services, several of which were shared with the Salvation Army congregation and Chinese Methodist Church who currently meet on our premises we also hosted :-
- The City Annual Remembrance Service for Homeless people who had died.
- Christian Aid Big Sing
- Action for Children Carol Service
- Carol Service for our Projects & User groups
- Service for the International day to End Violence to Sex Workers
- Gift Service for three of our Projects -
Scarpa - Children who runaway
Kumasi - Unaccompanied Young Asylum Seekers
GAP - Street Workers

We also created a Christmas Prayer Journey in the worship area called THE SPICE TRAIL. A visual display of the Christmas story surrounded by spices (the smell of Frankincense all week was wonderful) with a central area created to sit around the cross and manger beneath a large star of David from which we suspended doves, angels and ribbons for people to place their prayers onto.

380 people came to visit the Spice Trail during the week and in our communion service on Christmas Eve we included the 210 prayers from the ribbons in our prayers of Intercession. Prayers from a very diverse group of people, those who were certain about faith and those who were not, the rich and poor, those seeking asylum, vulnerable women involved in sex work, homeless people, struggling drug addicts all offering heartfelt prayers to God.

A powerful reminder that the work of Christmas is an everyday calling as described in this famous prayer.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The Work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers and sisters,
To make music in the heart.
Then indeed we shall be blessed!

Howard Thurman

1 comment:

Eddie Newton, Redhill Methodist Church said...

Like the idea of Christmas tree displayed early in Advent season. Also, specific carol services for user groups and others - we also have premises used by many different groups. Spice trail looks great - something visual and semi-permanent is so inviting for visitors and gives people space to think quietly. You have given us several ideas for next Christmas!!