Cancel or Celebrate? – St James and the COVID Christmas Challenge
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<p>Photo: a Christingle service at St James last Christmas </p>

Photo: a Christingle service at St James last Christmas

(Foto: )

Cancel or Celebrate? – St James and the COVID Christmas Challenge

For many families, going to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day is part of tradition. At St James, the English-speaking Church in Voorschoten, which normally meets in the British School, this year’s pandemic with its lockdowns were initially seen as a significant challenge. Ruan Crew, our minister, knew we must support initiatives to contain the virus to help those who are vulnerable and at risk. However, how could we reach out to those who needed help with loneliness, physical need, or the simple sadness of not being able to travel to see friends and families? This crisis invited us to rethink and reprioritise our church activities and to look for opportunities to minister in creative and exciting new ways. 

We have always been a close church family, despite the regular arrivals and departures so familiar to the ex-pat community; so the challenge was, could we make the change and become a strong community online? The answer was a surprising and strong ‘yes’!. Moving our Sunday services online to YouTube meant that we could invite people from all over the world to join our services, and they have done. We have had ‘visitors’ from America, Australia, Nigeria and the UK. Daily prayer on Zoom has become a regular part of worship. Prayer apps, online Bible workshops, sharing on social media and even an online marriage course has strengthened our feeling of family. Occasional cards, postcards and flowers being delivered to congregational members has helped people feel connected and can be enjoyed at home or shared with neighbours, who need a smile . 

In Summer, we met (with social distancing) for a baptism and again, later for a service of inauguration for our assistant curate, Matthias Thijs - thanks to the GodCentre in Voorschoten. It was lovely to see everybody even briefly.

We won’t be able to meet physically this Christmas but we are inviting everyone – including you - to join us online. Our popular family-friendly Christingle making service will go ahead online at 10.30 am on Sunday, 13th December. You can watch and even sing along to Christmas carols at our traditional service on Sunday, 20th at 6pm. Christmas Eve is always more reflective with a late evening service at 9pm and then, let us celebrate online together on Christmas morning at 10.30 am. For more details and other activities, please see our website www.stjames.nl 

Christmas this year is not cancelled. Let’s take advantage of all that we have learned this year and celebrate Christmas together!

Written by Sue Kirby, a Voorschoten resident and member of the Church of St James


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