PCC Initial Review of Christmas Services 2017

Ensuring high quality worship in all our services to the glory of God and in celebration of Jesus’ birth was our primary aim.

Changes were made this year to the pattern of services at the end of Advent and on Christmas Day.

The Candlelit Carol Services were held on Saturday 23rd December this year rather than Christmas Eve as in previous years.

The Candlelit Carol Services are a delightful opportunity to engage as wide a congregation as possible in celebrating the birth of Jesus. Over the last few years there has been a particularly good engagement with our younger families through the introduction of the “Live Nativity Tableau”. There has been an increase in the number of people attending the 4pm service in particular.

The aims in moving them from Christmas Eve were:

  1. To be able to welcome and accommodate all those wishing to attend, with no-one turned away.
  2. To encourage people to attend alternative services and create space for new worshippers at the Candlelit Carol Services.
  3. To spread Christmas services over more days so that the key people required to manage, lead and deliver all our Christmas worship could carry out their role well on every occasion.

The objectives were:

  1. To provide a variety of candlelit services which are particularly appreciated.
  2. To advertise the services widely around the parish and beyond so that people had information about the changes and would not be disappointed.
  3. To ensure that anyone who did come to church for 4pm or 6pm on Christmas Eve were warmly welcomed and did not find the church locked and in darkness.

The following analysis is based on the aims and objectives listed above:

Criteria Outcome Notes
Was anyone turned away from the candlelit services on 23 December? No The majority of those attending were not regular congregants. These people were not put off by the change of dates
Is there evidence of people who were unable to attend the services on 23rd coming at alternative times? We are aware of examples of alternative attendance at the service of 9 Lessons and Carols, at 10am on Christmas Eve and at 10am on Christmas morning.  
Were other candlelit services provided and did this work well? Candlelight was introduced at the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols and at the Midnight Service. On both occasions the church looked beautiful. Many people expressed their appreciation. There was a palpable sense of awe and reflection during the final reading at the Nine Lessons and Carol. New/younger readers need to be rehearsed beforehand. Microphones must be tested before all services. The Square was closed to traffic because of the Bonfire Boys’ Christmas Market which might have presented an access / parking issue for some.
Was the quality of worship at subsequent services improved, particularly the Midnight Service? The music was greatly improved. Well done, to the organist and the choir. The Vicar did not leave feeling that she had under-performed. The age profile at the midnight service is younger than the usual age profile at St. Peter’s.

This year it included a baby and some older children. This service has a greater “gravitas” than the other services offered over Christmas. There were a number of people in distress, some because of bereavement. Most of those present are not regular members of our church. Some are not regular communicants. This service needs more support from those of us who are regular members.

Was the publicity successful? Did people come to church at 4pm or 6pm on 24 December expecting a service? Publicity of services via posters throughout the whole parish (not just the village), flyers, Titchfield News, the Welcome Leaflet, church noticeboards, the church website, the village website, facebook, the Diocesan website and “A Church near you”; also on local radio via Tim Dakin. The attempt to advertise in the Pompey Chimes was unsuccessful despite an email being sent to the address given well in advance. We are not sure why.

Only a small number of groups, 19 individuals in total, came on Christmas Eve, unaware that there had been a change of date.

Was the welcome provided on Christmas Eve afternoon adequate for any people who did come to church. Yes. There were some interesting conversations, people stayed in church for a while, looked round while carols were being played, lit candles etc. and were given “God With Us” booklets to take home. Having a presence in church at this time was much appreciated by passers-by who came in for a chat and a look round. In total 44 people came into church, including the 19 who had been expecting a service.
Were the services more manageable? Yes, for those who attended and for those acting as stewards/welcomers.

All worshippers had a clear view of what was going on because no-one was seated in the Southampton Chapel. There was no sense of panic or disappointment about saving seats for family and friends.

If so, did this improve the quality of worship? Yes. The services were more measured and reflective. There was a better quality of worship experience because the church was not overcrowded. Everyone could see and sit in comfort. In the past there have been complaints from people seated in the Southampton Chapel who felt unable to join in because of poor visibility.  
Would this be a more sustainable pattern for the future when we anticipate that Titchfield will not have a full-time priest and may not have a curate or help from retired clergy? Yes  

A note about numbers
The numbers attending the services in 2017, with comparative numbers from the last six years, are shown in the table below. Numbers do not form part of criteria above because increasing the numbers was never the intention; rather, there was a need to reduce the pressure on the Candlelit Carol Services by providing viable alternatives. The change was about quality rather than quantity.

By improving the quality of our Christmas worship we were aiming for encounters which would encourage/enable worshippers to grow in their Christian discipleship. Hoped-for outcomes would be that those who attended will want to know more about Jesus and deepen their relationship with him.

Evidence of this will be difficult to gather and may not be immediately obvious but would include increased involvement of individuals and family groups in the life and worship of the church.

Total Numbers for Christmas services during the last seven years

Year Nine lessons and carols Candlelit 4pm Candlelit 6pm Midnight Christmas morning 8am Christmas morning 10am
2011 118 325 475 90 48 No figures available
2012 120 370 475 78 35 132
2013 125 400 450 73 21 100
2014 133 388 470 94 23 96
2015 114 522 532 82 23 99
2016 133 489 502 94 38 98
2017* 107 325 291 85 N/A 110

*Christmas Eve was a Sunday so some people attended worship earlier in the day: 20 at 8am and 86 at 10am. There was no 8am service on Christmas Day.

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