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As Christmas Day draws nearer and the County prepares to celebrate the birth of Jesus, Christmas will feel a bit different for all of us this year.

With social distancing measures; tiers and so much more over this year of pandemic, it’s been a long 12 months for everyone.

So The Church of England in Lancashire has just released its ‘Christmas Free for All’ – a new 50-minute relaxed video service for ALL the County to enjoy at this time, including …

  • contributions from all three Bishops of the Diocese, Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn and Rt Rev. Dr Jill Duff, Bishop of Lancaster who present the Free for All video … alongside Rt Rev. Philip North, Bishop of Burnley, who gives a talk towards the end of the service, reminding us of the true meaning of Christmas
  • a ‘sleigh ride’ round Lancashire to see what Christmas looks like in tier 3 for a Church of England Primary School; a hospital chaplaincy and a parish church
  • comedy routines from Rev. Chris Krawiec from Morecambe Parish Church (plus some bonus comedy from Bishop Julian who cracks a few jokes dressed as Santa)!
  • Christmas carols, with members of Octavius Choir from Blackburn
  • a children’s activity led by Sarah Earnshaw, Children’s Adviser for Diocesan Board of Education

The 50-minute video, produced by Jim Cooke of Centreline Films, is available here on our Diocesan YouTube channel or click the embedded video above to watch. 

Bishop Julian commented: “With restrictions still very much in place we wanted to provide the people of Lancashire with a special Christmas Free for All service, to watch and enjoy themselves and to share via social media with family and friends.

“After a difficult year it’s a chance to take a moment to relax and enjoy a service which is fun and entertaining but also reminds us Jesus should be front and centre of all our celebrations.

“We all hope in the year ahead to return to living fuller lives – free from the inability to enjoy the simple things like a meal out, a drink with friends, a trip to the theatre or the cinema.

“But let’s take this opportunity, during what will be a very different Christmas in 2020, to remember that the way to be truly fulfilled is through Jesus Christ; our Saviour who came to earth as a tiny, helpless baby to bring peace to our hearts and the promise of eternal life.”

Like the recent ‘road trip’ round the Diocese for an online Diocesan conference in October, the ‘sleigh ride’ segments in the Christmas Free for All are presented by Rev. Sam Cheesman, the Bishop’s Chaplain.

Featured destinations are St Stephen’s CofE Primary School in Preston; Trinity Community Church in Accrington and Lancaster Infirmary.  

At St Stephen’s School Sam speaks to children about making Advent wreaths. There is also a sneak preview of their outside nativity service … complete with real donkey!

He also speaks to Ms Helen Wright, Headteacher who gives some insights into how the school has operated in the last few months saying: “Initially we thought the pandemic may be a short-term thing but it hasn’t, it’s been a really long marathon; understanding regulations, keeping pupils safe and looking after the staff.

“Christmas will be a time to think about a future of hope and peace and also to begin to think positively about what’s coming next.”

At Trinity Community Church, Rev Paul McNally talked about the support the church is giving to the local community – from helping people who are homeless and people struggling with addiction to providing families with the means to buy coats for the winter.

Paul explains: “The ‘coat ministry’ came about through people making enquiries on our Facebook page; people coming to us with needs. So we set up a page to meet those needs as a church; people who want to help can buy a coat and we take it to the families with a card.”

And at Lancaster Infirmary we meet Rev Ian Dewar who is Lead Chaplain. Ian provides a sense of what the recent months have been like during the pandemic in his role.

Ian says: “When the lockdown hit and the virus entered our lives it was intense and it has continued since – not quite as intense in the second lockdown but you were always conscious that this was in the background.

“It’s been a lot of hard work; there is a lot of tiredness, but people have shown a lot of resilience.”

Reminding us of the true meaning of Christmas in his talk during the ‘Christmas Free for All’ service, Bishop Philip adds: “This child, Jesus, is God amongst us; if you believe in that in your heart then everything about your life is changed and you can find a happiness that nothing in this world can ever take away from you.

“And if God can come to share in our life, then we can share in God’s life … because of this birth we can share in the life of heaven."

 

 

 

 

Ronnie Semley, 16/12/2020