Last updated 23rd December 2020
This page gathers together a whole host of local and national Advent and Christmas resources and initiatives in one place for easy viewing and engagement.
We are adding to it and updating it with more helpful material all the time.
But while you read this page remember ...
In a recent Coronavirus Task Group briefing Bishop Philip wrote: "Deep within the human psyche lies the need to justify ourselves. It can be tempting to generate endless activity and make countless plans.
"But it is Jesus who justifies us. It would be wonderful if lockdown had provided us with the space to remember that we don’t need to earn his approval through the depth and perceived quality of our ministry.
"Many people are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of ideas out there, all excellent. Don’t try and do everything! Pick one or two things that best suit your context and do them well.
"If you want to discuss this with others, don’t forget the closed Facebook Group on Christmas where the discussion is rich and varied. Please email email@example.com to gain entry."
UPDATED FROM DECEMBER 21 ... Coverage of the Bishops' annual Christmas messages is now on the Diocesan website news section.
Click the links below to go to web pages with the videos and the text of each message.
You can also access downloadable Word or pdf versions of the Bishops' messages on each website page as well.
Meanwhile, take some time to browse the news section of the Diocesan website, where you will also find a selection of recent stories, giving a flavour of what has been happening across our Diocese on the run-up to this Christmas.
DailyHope is a free national telephone line that was established very early in the pandemic; offering music, prayers and reflections as well as full worship services from the Church of England at the end of the phone.
The line – which is available 24 hours a day on 0800 804 8044 – has been set up particularly with those unable to join online church services during the period of restrictions in mind; to provide comfort and spiritual nourishment to the most isolated in our society.
This Advent and Christmas, in conjunction with The Church of England’s Comfort and Joy campaign, DailyHope will continue to offer all the national services as well as Comfort and Joy’s special reflections. In addition, BBC Songs of Praise’s Pam Rhodes offers listeners an introduction to some of her favourite carols; as well as a special festive series of ‘Christmas at Home on the Phone’.
Some other options available on the DailyHope line include materials also available digitally such as Prayer During the Day and Night Prayer updated daily, from Common Worship and a recording of the Church of England weekly national online service.
A section called Carol-Line also offers callers a small selection of carols, updated daily. An option entitled ‘Chair Exercises on the Phone’, also provides recorded over-the-phone tuition to keep listeners fit and healthy from the safety of a chair during this time at home.
This time of year is a time of great excitement and joy for some, but for others, it is a time of intense loneliness and pain, particularly as we continue to live through the current pandemic.
There is pressure on us to ‘join the celebrations’ (even though they will be different this year).
Sometimes we are just not in that place. Perhaps that is because of bereavement; perhaps it may be that we are living with depression or anxiety. It may be that we are struggling financially, and we can’t afford the basic necessities of life.
Fr Neil Kelley, from St Laurence's, Chorley, has produced a Blue Christmas liturgy that can be used by any parish, in the hope it will help us focus on the true meaning of the birth of Jesus who brought light into a world of darkness.
Read and download it here ...
There is also a Blue Christmas reflection video now available on our YouTube channel: Click below to watch it ...
Meanwhile, this Blue Christmas video can also be downloaded for sharing locally if you prefer to do that. We have provided it in mp4 format on Dropbox here.
‘A Child Shall Lead Them’ is a new and beautifully produced booklet which includes contributions from clergy from our Diocese including all three Bishops.
It contains reflections on the Book of Isaiah for each day of Advent. All incumbents have been asked if they want to order copies and, so far, around 4000 copies have gone to parishes.
Further copies have also been sent to everyone with Permission to Officiate and other retired clergy of the Diocese.
Anyone else who wants copies of the Advent Devotional can still get them … up to 20 copies can be mailed out. Orders for more than 20 can be laid aside for picking up from the Diocesan Offices, Clayton House, Walker Business Park, Blackburn, BB1 2QE.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your requests in the first instance. The booklet can also be downloaded from the Diocesan website here and find out more about how the booklet has been recived in parishes via this story.
The Board of Education team with Bishop Philip has made four acts of Collective Worship, three on Advent themes and a Christmas Special. Each lasts around ten minutes and includes teaching and prayer.
These are aimed at Primary Schools but will have other uses, for example children’s groups, Sunday schools, all-age services or in the home. There is also an accompanying resource booklet written by Lisa Horobin.
Friday, December 18, 9.30am-1.30pm
Bishop Philip will be leading this quiet morning to prepare for Christmas which will explore the great Advent ‘O’ Antiphons using words, music, images and guided periods of silence. It will take place on Zoom and you should ensure that the whole morning is clear.
To book a place please email email@example.com
Throughout Advent and Christmas via the Whalley Abbey Facebook page remember that you can still join in with live midday prayer direct from the Abbey every Tuesday.
More on the Abbey, including other opportunities to join in with prayer in person (with appropriate social distancing measures at this time) can be found here.
A growing alliance of thousands of churches across the UK has come together through the ‘Love Christmas’ initiative to spread a message of hope, love and kindness to people who are struggling this winter.
Love Your Neighbour is an ecumenical alliance of churches and it is mobilising an army of local volunteers to sponsor and deliver a million Christmas boxes to the most vulnerable and isolated.
Love Christmas will let the nation know we stand with them and for them at this time. Parishes in our Diocese are encouraged to get involved and more information is available here, while the website for the initiative is here.
While we are still waiting for definitive advice about carol singing in various contexts this Christmas, there is one form of carol singing we can all get involved with.
That's carol singing on your doorstep, with your family of course but also by encouraging others in your street to join in from their own doorsteps!
There is a special website promoting the idea here to find out more. Meanwhile Premier Christian Radio is running its own version of the event - broadcasting carols to sing along to on December 20 at 5.30pm.
An Advent Resource – The Four Last Things
The combination of the coronavirus and national lockdown which included (and once again includes) worshipping communities, challenged the faith of even the most robust.
Many people admitted to thinking seriously about death and dying in a new way. For even the most committed church-goer, heaven came into sharper focus as loved ones died quickly and without the usual pastoral ministry of the church.
Both the Bible and our liturgy make references to death, judgement, heaven and hell but how do we think of these things? Are these words or concepts we simply accept or do they inform our thinking and our daily living?
This Advent resource, produced by St. Laurence’s Chorley, seeks to help us understand what have been traditionally referred to as “The Four Last Things” and to think about them again in the light of our experiences this year. This season of Advent gives us hope as we prepare to welcome the true Light which has come into the world.
There are two ways people can access these on St Laurence's YouTube channel.
Four separate talks, one each week, are scheduled for 5pm on the Saturdays prior to the four Sundays in Advent. Links follow ...
Why not watch the four talks together across one day to create your own 'Advent Quiet Day'? For further advice about how you could do that, contact Fr Neil Kelley on firstname.lastname@example.org
And for the general YouTube page visit St Laurence's Church Chorley - YouTube; or for the links sent to you directly, email Fr. Neil Kelley on the address above.
Resources for Advent and Christmas from the national Church of England teams start here.
Comfort and Joy - The Church of England's 2020 online Christmas digital campaign to support parishes across the country - holds together the hope that Christmas will bring joy and celebration after a uniquely difficult year.
At the same time there is an acknowledgement that – for those who have lost loved ones or livelihoods, or who are potentially still not able to be together with loved ones – it may be the Church’s role, both nationally and locally, to provide consolation, rather than assume everyone will be ready to join in jubilation.
The campaign has a whole host of resources for churches to engage with.
St Martin-in-the-Fields church in central London will broadcast a national online service to mark the start of Advent on as the nation prepares for a Christmas ‘like no other’ amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The service for Advent Sunday will be the first in a series of pre-recorded ‘worship at home’ national online Church of England Advent and Christmas services with the theme of Comfort and Joy. See below for more on these.
The Church of England is partnering with a range of national charities and individuals for online services throughout Advent and Christmas.
The Church of England nationally has also put together a collection of over 70 pieces of music for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. These include hymns, carols, worship songs, organ voluntaries and children's music for you to download.
Parishes on the A Church Near You website will find them there, where the tracks and videos are free for you to use in your services this winter.
Many churches across the country have already downloaded the pre-recorded Advent carols and hymns - more than 100,000 times - for use in digital and in person services, with these expected to be heard by millions of people throughout December. Why not do the same?
Live-streaming your Christmas Service webinar, Monday 30th November, 11am to 12.20 pm
This webinar will be recorded so it will be possible to sign up for the recording afterwards.
Publicising your Advent and Christmas events and services on Facebook webinar
Monday 7th December, 11 am to 12.20 pm
GoChatter Videos has more than 90 quality Christmas video resources for churches to use in their Christmas services this year!
These include customisable videos, Nativity service packs and carol lyric videos. Their resources make it easy to brighten up and customise your Christmas services, and promote them to your local community.
There is also fantastic range of other nativity resources available for your church services. Here's a brilliant video animation from the Bible Society, guaranteed to put a smile on everyone’s face and bring a fresh perspective to the Nativity.
Or try The Lockdown Nativity - engage members of your congregations to play various parts, wear tea towels on heads, and share the nativity in an innovative way this Christmas via Zoom.
The Nativity Escape Room is also a fantastic resource for children and young people, taking them on a wonderful activity-laden adventure of unlocking the mysteries of Jesus’s birth.
Ronnie Semley, November/December 2020