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Ideas and issues regarding celebrating Advent during the pandemic.

Even among those churches that are already open or will be by December, for most of us, social distancing and member concerns will make this Advent unlike any we have experienced before.

Advent is traditionally a high-attendance season in the Church, full of singing, special gatherings and performances, and the sharing of food  -- all things which the pandemic has changed. Many of our members will also be staying home this Advent far more than normal due to restrictions, closings, and cancellations -- making this Advent 2020 a pastoral, as well as, spiritual challenge this year for many.

We have moved and GREATLY EXPANDED this set of resources and discussion.

Go to the "Celebrating Advent in 2020" Forum 

Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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Super important topic!

Not only will pandemic considerations affect Advent worship, teaching, and programs at CHURCH, it will be a strain on many HOME celebrations and traditions, such as family get-togethers, Christmas parties, traveling, etc., and will impact many family's gift-giving budgets due to the economic situation. 

These things will be happening during a time of year when emotions and expectations already tend to run high. Thus, we need PASTORAL solutions as well as programmatic ones.

I also can't help but think of the first Christmas' difficult journey and "no room at the inn.


Several articles have started to pop up on church blogs. Here's one of the first I read that offered some hope. 

I, for one, am growing weary of the emotional whiplash of “the COVID maybe,” the perpetual back-and-forth between hoping and planning to gather in person and then seeing that delayed for another two, four or six weeks -- or postponed indefinitely. I appreciate the clarity of my colleague’s congregation: everything in-person will be held online well into January.

That allows two things to happen. First, it allows space and time for grief. As with Holy Week and Easter, there will be considerable grief about physically distanced celebrations of Advent and Christmas. But second, such clarity allows us to move from the weight of that loss to the hope of possibility -- from lament to creativity.

By beginning conversations now about what Advent and Christmas online could look like, we can harness the imagination of our congregations

--Rev. Nathan Kirkpatrick, Director of Alban at Duke Divinity School.

Feel free to suggest, link to, or quote other helpful resources and ideas.


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Don't miss the Writing Team's "@Home" lessons for Advent and Christmas! Four lessons (for the four weeks of Advent that are available as PDFs  that can be shared with members of your congregation for families to use as creative weekly devotions or Sunday lessons. Plus a suggested movie if you want to provide The Promise as a Christmas gift to your families.

We have moved and GREATLY EXPAND this set of resources and discussion. Go to the Celebrating Advent in 2020 Forum.


Last edited by Neil MacQueen

This POST has been turned into its own "topic" and moved to a new forum.
Please comment over there!

"The Promise of Advent"

Pastors, leaders, and Children's Pastors
discuss and brainstorm Advent 2020

Four Video Podcasts from Amplifymedia/United Methodist Publishing

Review and Notes from Neil MacQueen,

The following four "Promise of Advent" videos were produced by the United Methodist Publishing House's "Amplify Media" group for the 2020 Advent season during the COVID pandemic. The first two videos are the one's I'd point children's and family ministry to. The second two are more for worship leaders/preachers.

There is some "talking" to wade through in each but I found some good ideas and "sparks," as well as some words and concepts to help frame this season's special needs.

Here are the "framing questions" for the videos pertaining to the pandemic:

  1. How to translate in-person services to in-home and virtual environments. 

  2. How to help children and families celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way.

  3. How to preach and pastor Advent’s message after a year of extraordinary loss and stress.

A big take away for me from the series was the word  "COPE." 
 Coping with changes, feelings, a sense of loss, and the unknowns (and not just "hoping" or waiting for things to get better).

Advent is always stressful for congregations and leaders, but this year's social-distancing, social turmoil, and health concerns will disrupt many of the very traditions and in-the-flesh activities we have come to rely on. That's why this year, we need to redouble our efforts to help people cope as well as hope, in part by providing real and tangible "incarnate" experiences in these socially-distanced times, rather than just broadcasting a few videos and emailing Christmas lessons.

Video Podcast #1

Worship, Music, and Ritual: Reimagining Advent Church Services

This first one features United Methodist's pastors discussing how church leaders can imaginatively plan and prepare for Advent without the traditions of its typical events and rituals.

This "intro" takes a bit of time introducing the participants and general issues.  If you're looking to cut right to the specific ideas, read the PDF summary of their 40 minute video.

Video Podcast #2

Children's Ministers talking about children's issues and needs this Advent.

Once you get through the intros and prefacing, there are some neat ideas. One suggestion is to tap youth who are "masters of social media" to create and share Advent messages. Another suggestion had a creative suggestion about how to pass a ball between zoom participants to visualize symbolize our togetherness. (That idea made me think of a number of ways people can do more than sit like bumps on a log in a zoom worship. For example, have each light a candle and offer a prayer, or each sing a line from a Xmas hymn so that each person is heard and focused on by the others if only for a moment.)  I also liked the ideas of MAILING something each week to kids during Advent.  Read their recap.

 The third and fourth videos in the group will be especially helpful to preachers and adult worship organizers. 

Video Podcast #3:

Preaching and Pastoring in a Year of Loss and Insecurity.

  • People are ravaged by loss and disappointment. How can I inspire hope and empathy in our current context?
  • It feels like my congregation is more divided culturally than ever before. What can heal such division?
  • Between the extra work of technology and stress of this year, I feel like I don’t have enough time to prepare for services and other pastoring opportunities. How do we church leaders work together to help each other survive this time?

    I especially liked the discussion about the "apocalyptic stuff" in the lectionary, the first and second coming of Christ -- which starts around the 20 minute mark.

Video Podcast #4:

Incarnation: Be Inspired by the Names of Christ

In this final episode of The Promise of Advent webinar series,  video leader and UMC pastor Adam Hamilton discusses his new Cokesbury book and Bible study, Incarnation: Rediscovering the Significance of Christmas. Some interesting teaching and preaching fodder here. The author notes that the book was revised and edited during the COVID pandemic such that it also addresses this year's special needs.


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Last edited by Neil MacQueen

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