But it did!
Thanks to the generosity of Stoneleigh NAEC for the use of their grounds, and to the staff of NightFlix for the use of their equipment, we were able to provide a Carol Service this year – albeit in a suitably socially-distanced way.
Methodists traditionally are singers, and the founders of Methodism (John & Charles Wesley) wrote thousands of hymns – one of which is Hark the Herald-Angels Sing, a staple of most carol services. The ban on singing has been hard on us, and it was difficult to see how we would be able to hold a traditional Carol Service this year.
For many people, the annual Carol Service marks the start of their celebration of Christmas, and this year it looked like it wouldn't be able to happen. It has been a tough year for everyone, and so many people have felt the lack of gathered worship. There has been a plethora of online or virtual options, but it's not the same as being in the same space with other people all focussed on worshipping our amazing God. So, this option of a drive-in Carol Service looked like being the best chance we would have of holding gathered worship – even though there was a degree of separateness about it.
It was a Carol Service unlike any other I have been to – although very much in the traditional style with readings and carols – the big difference was that the congregation were in their cars, and we were in the open air! (Not great on Sunday!). As a steward, I was in a unique position to see how everyone reacted to this. And wherever I looked, I could see people singing along to the well-known carols – singing their hearts out. It was heart-warming to see.
The service lasted about 35 – 40 minutes, and we were able to sing 8 carols, and listen to 4 readings and a poem in this time. If you would like to use the service in your own home, click here for the Order of Service.
Thanks must go to all those who were 'front of house' – those leading the service and providing their musical talents (Revs Sam McBratney & Mark Rowland; Liz Bones & Susie Burden; Peter & Ruth Selby), and to those who stewarded the services (Rev Dr Iain Ballard, Trevor Pethick & Kate Tennyson); to David Lusty for ensuring that we had considered all the risks; and to anyone who had a hand in supporting this occasion.
If you want to see what it sounded like from outside the cars, click here (the singing is provided by Sam McBratney, Mark Rowland, Liz Bones & Susie Burden).