A Testimony.

THE CHURCH LEAVES THE BUILDING – IN WINTER! (or another Christmas miracle!)

I have loved worshipping in the open air during this time of lockdown.  We have had larger newer congregations and freedom to worship informally which has obviously appealed widely.

So when we first started thinking about our Carol Service I was drawn to the challenge of open air worship in the depths of winter!

There was a connection to the shepherd experience out on the hill in the company of the Heavenly Host at 3-5 degrees C and the memory of carol singing round the village in years gone by.

So I held these thoughts and prayed around them, and feeling a gentle prompting from the Lord to follow this but to hold it lightly and prayerfully before Him.

This made sense (unusual for such Divine promptings!) because of the regularity with which the COVID rules on outside worship were changing and the substantial range of practical issues raised by even the most conservative risk assessment – not to mention the weather!

There was a big shove in proceedings when I quite casually mentioned the need for floodlighting to my neighbour who never blinked but seemed to adopt the idea wholeheartedly even confessing his love of risk in these ventures.  Jon is in Theatre production which seems to include significant risk at every turn!  And there was significant risk on his side due to the need for advance planning on reserving all the equipment and setting it up.

We already had some experience in managing (social distancing) for good numbers at Harvest and Remembrance.  We had an established team of stewards for Track & Trace at the three churchyard gates and to the church itself (which now has a WC, kitchenette etc.), and we had the signage.

Live music is so much better than recorded but needs must (our Remembrance was all recorded including Last Post and Reveille).  And so, the next encouragement was the agreement of musicians to perform outside in December weather.

Lighting and music were a good start, but how was the Almighty going to make this all happen?  We had to not get ahead of ourselves but to continue to hold this lightly and follow His lead.

To make this an attractive event for all ages, we needed to paint a picture, so the idea of campfires (or firepits) seemed to provide a warm sounding inviting community feel.  This was coupled with the offer of an event shelter within which we could set the stable and crib, and the musicians.

Two indomitable and clever ladies decided to set about decorating the tall (5m) memorial cross in the centre of the churchyard.  This was all beginning to resemble an exciting basis for meaningful worship and a much-needed community event – a gathering within the meaning of COVID compliant open-air worship.

Offers of help started to come in with young and old visiting every house in Abbots and Leer and more offering to form a construction team.

We reckoned on the day we would need 14 to run safely.  Everyone bought their own refreshments and chairs which simplified things.

We needed printing in good time of course but all the time there was the issue of the weather!  I couldn’t worry about that.  I felt all along that this was subject to higher authority!  No pressure but continuing to hold it lightly and prayerfully I felt peaceful about it all.

I knew the band would go as far as they possibly could.  If things turned really nasty, people just would not come! (or would they…. would be worshippers are amazingly resilient!)

We put out a gentle request for prebooking just to guide us on numbers.  In the event 55 prebooked and we had about 70 on the night.

The weather was testing to our faith!  It rained pretty constantly on the day before and early part of the day itself.  In fact it rained up to half an hour before we started but then cleared up and we had wonderful clear night, with a moon and good enough for the team to get a couple of roaring fires going.

Praise God, it went off well with I believe a meaningful act of community worship and hearty open-air carol singing.

But we had a core team who needed to keep positive; to keep believing and remain unshakable.  Again, praise God, that the key ones were not knocked off course.  (In a tight community like ours, it only needs a few negative vibes to start corrosive rumours and discouragement, as you will know.)  There were setbacks, which is where the command to hold this lightly really helped.  But we rode them out and adapted.

This was God’s show and He led, and we tried to obey…I truly believe that.  We have an amazing incumbent priest Val, who allows us, trusts us, enables us and encourages us!  I learnt a lot in these few months…about serving Him and about the joy of being with likeminded go-forward can-do people with a common goal!

‘And now to Him who can do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, to Him be the glory…!’ (Eph 3.20)



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Art Exhibition (Daglingworth)

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