After years of uncertainty, restrictions and lockdowns in the pandemic, Church of England churches across the country are getting ready to welcome people through their doors this Christmas and a new video has been launched with the message that everyone is invited.
Many Church of England churches have traditionally enjoyed large turnouts at their Advent and Christmas services and they are hoping that this year will be no exception.
‘The Great Invitation’ is aimed at people who have never attended church.
It follows a woman through many Christmases over the course of her life and the ways she has been supported by her local church, from appearing in a nativity play as a child to getting married, experiencing bereavement and other major life events.
The video ends with the message, “Wherever you are on life’s journey, you’re invited to church this Christmas.”
It is being launched as part of the Church of England’s Christmas ‘Follow the Star – the Great Invitation’ campaign and will run across its Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and Twitter accounts.
After the challenges of Covid and now a cost of living crisis pushing many people to the brink financially, the Bishop of Ripon, Helen-Ann Hartley, said it was about letting people know that the Church is there for them.
“The message of this year’s Christmas campaign, couldn’t be simpler: we’re there for you – in every community in England, and in our congregations across Europe and beyond,” she said.
“People have found the last few years very difficult and my prayer is that by coming together in worship this Christmas, we can find renewed hope and inspiration.
“Churches and chaplaincies across the country are getting ready to welcome you. From nativities for all the family, to moments of reflection for those finding it difficult. Take a look at A Church Near You to hear again the hope that the birth of Jesus Christ offers to everyone.”
Resources have been produced by the Church of England to help churches welcome people this Christmas. They include a “plain English” explainer on what people can expect and social media graphics, Christmas cards, and carols to download and play.
The theme of bereavement touched upon in the video will feature again in a special “Blue Christmas” service led by the Archbishop of York on Sunday 18 December, and on Christmas Day, an online gathering will be held for anyone feeling alone.
Amaris Cole, the Church of England’s Head of Digital, said: “Our Advent and Christmas campaign this year has a clear message – you are welcome to celebrate with us and are invited to one of our services.
“There is no doubt that the last two Christmases have been incredibly difficult, with gatherings and services limited by Covid-19.
“So we’ve worked on resources to help churches issue the Great Invitation to their communities this December and welcome people back in – or to attend for the very first time.
“The Church of England’s social channels will be sharing messages of invitation, helpful posts that explain services and traditions to those considering church for the first time, and a range of famous faces sharing their favourite Christmas memories of church.
“Wherever you are, we hope to celebrate with you this year. Find your local services and events at AChurchNearYou.com.”
The Rev Steve Short, Rector of St Michael and St Mary’s, Melbourne in Derbyshire, one of the locations used in the video, spoke about the importance of invitation.
“Follow the Star is fantastic anyway, but tying that in with The Great Invitation is really impactful: it brings together Christmas and back-to-church Sunday,” he said.
“Research shows that people just want to be invited to things, just as we are invited to follow Christ.
“The resources provided are very helpful, and the vision will reach many. It’s been a real privilege to be involved in this. Thank you for giving our churches a platform.”