By Rev. Grayhame Bowcott
Like many Anglican congregations throughout our Diocese, St. George’s, The Blue Mountains has adapted to the pandemic norms of hybrid Sunday services, combining in-person worship with live streamed virtual attendance.
These innovations have allowed us to stay connected with most of our membership, yet there is one very important group within our parish family that has not “tuned in” with the same level of engagement: our young families and children.
Many of our families with unvaccinated children have expressed their hesitancy in returning to church. For some, they are concerned about the thoughts of other parishioners at having unvaccinated children sharing a worship space with our more vulnerable senior populations. Another comment from one family was that their children spend their entire week masked at school; the weekend is the one time in their routine where they take a vacation from Covid protocols. While the pandemic has been difficult on all people, I would argue that it has hit our youngest congregation members the hardest, in the sense that many have been completely cut off from church and from their faith communities at a time when our support may be needed the most.
This was the challenging reality that our Parish Council kept in mind when we began planning for this year’s Christmas services. If it was unlikely that our youngest families were going to come to us for Christmas, how could we bring Christmas to them?
The answer came through the contributions of parishioners who are still very much “young at heart”. It was decided that St. George’s would host an outdoor community Christmas event for all the young families of the neighbourhood. Our mission: enable them to feel cared for and to share the message of the Christmas story!
As I am writing article, the following details for our outdoor event have been planned for this upcoming Saturday December 11: we are preparing to welcome 250 participants (parents and children) to an outdoor tree lighting ceremony and carol service.
Reaching out through our community partnerships, St. George’s will be offering hot chocolate and Timbits (sponsored through our local Tim Hortons).
A planning committee has arranged for 3,000 Christmas lights to illuminate a prominent spruce tree on the corner of our church grounds. Saint Nicholas will be joining us for the tree lighting ceremony (brought to life by the Mayor of the Town of the Blue Mountains, Alar Soever) with other town counsellors in attendance. We have invited two local choral groups to join our St. George’s choir in the leading of both sacred and secular Christmas carols, with all participants receiving their own carol book!
For the youngest participants, an outdoor theater will be constructed of hay bales and the classic Rudolf the Rednose Reindeer movie will shown. Finally, following prayers for our community, in the moment when the Christmas tree is “lit up,” our planning group has arranged for a “no bang” fireworks illumination show that will be a special surprise for our guests. Our hope for this event is to relay the message that Anglicans in our community care about our local relationships and that we are willing to reach out to find families where they are.
As we transition into another year of pandemic uncertainly, allow me to leave you with this question to consider: how is your congregation reaching out to your local families and neighbourhood in ways that show you care? May you be blessed in your efforts of forming new relationships and may you have fun in the process too!
Rev. Dr. Grayhame Bowcott is passionate about fostering congregational relationships and sharing our Anglican vocation with others. He serves as rector of St. George’s, The Parish of The Blue Mountains. firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Clarksburg Tour of Light 2021 (from left to right) - Rev. Grayhame Bowcott, Councillor Peter Bordignon, Mayor Alar Soever, Sarah Filion (Clarksburg Business Association Chair), Legion President Shawn McKinlay and Councillor Andrea Matrasovs.