On Sunday I was planned for three carol services. It could have easily been an exhausting drag. However, all the Churches showed lovely signs of hope through the way the worship came about collaboratively.
One of the first collaborative features was that all three services used the Leicester North Circuit Advent Blessings cards, these have been really popular around the circuit and were used at all three of these carol services.
Queniborough Carol Service (10:30am Sunday 19th)
Eileen, as worship leader and I had met last week to prepare the service for Queniborough. Beyond that she had taken on many of the arrangements for the worship which was great. When I arrived for the service she and Audrey had taken into account I might not be feeling very wonderful (due to the wisdom tooth extraction that was supposed to happen on Wednesday but which in the end was cancelled) so Audrey had prepared some intercessions (which proved to be much better than I had prepared). Lots of people took part in the service, one even commented that they hadn't ever read in Church before. As a small rural chapel it had a lovely relaxed family feel about the service.
Rothley Carol Service (4pm Sunday 19th)
The service at Rothley was a slightly more formal affair for the village with various eminent local people doing the readings readings. Sue, as worship leader and Steward had sorted out all the arrangements which again made things easier for me and involved more people. The service included a solo from Christine and afterwards we had warmed fruit punch with mince pies etc. Nice to see plenty of people in the chapel and meet many for the first time. Again as the minister it was a lovely balance between people taking initiative and doing things while also wanting me to be involved.
Syston Carol Service (6pm Sunday 19th)
Quite a while ago the Church Council suggested that a group of volunteers put together the carol service and it worked really well. The Church was full downstairs with quite a number of people in the balcony.
The team sorting the worship had got a huge number of people involved with scripture readings, music, prayers, sketches, dramatic readings etc. We had a large varied band from pre-teen to well shall we say quite a bit older than that We also had a choir perform and a music group who led another song.
It was a huge delight to be able to take part in this worship, it was held together as a coherent whole with good and accessible theology behind the choices made and the way they were led. I loved it.
At the end I had been given a "spot" to close off the service, the Bullitt cargobike Sleigh came in (properly kitted out with fairy lights and wrapped presents) as I reflected on what we might be hoping for at Christmas and contrasting that with the Hope that comes with/from Christ.
As the Church was so full I had been a bit worried about fitting the "sleigh" down the aisle but I just managed it
One of the best things about a service like this is that everyone compliments the minister for the results of everyone else's hard work
In prospect I had thought this would be a tough day. I was expecting to be recovering from general anaesthetic and wisdom tooth extraction. The work load included three services (all with refreshments after, one with a special church council after as well) set in very different contexts and with quite different expectations about what a carol service should be like. Having two of the services packed close together is an extra load.
Yet at the end it was not a tough day. So many people were involved and were organising things and doing so in ways that were open, helpful and well communicated that it made all the preparation so much easier. In all three churches people were relaxed and welcoming the various contributions and that atmosphere really helped the worship.
It was also fantastic that the quality of the thinking and theology lifted another potential burden from me. There were no awkward moments when you thought "what has that got to do with this service?" The prayers were beautifully thought through, fitted well and had some lovely phrases in them that lifted us and challenged us.
All in all the wide collaboration which was not my doing but simply the culture, the way things are done and the way that people want to do things that made these services so special for me and which at the end of the day meant that I had been able to worship fully myself and despite still recovering from a cold reach the end without feeling exhausted and drained.
I find all this immensely encouraging as well as enjoyable and helpful in my own faith journey.
So a big thank you to all at Queniborough, Rothley and Syston Methodist Churches for having such a great way of working, worshipping and being community together.