The Christmas Feels

Cathedrals are getting ready to re-open and re-imagining their Advent and Christmas programmes to make sure they adhere to the latest Government and Public Health guidelines and bring something of the magic and mystery of the season to visitors and worshippers alike this Christmas.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. A Cathedral Christmas …

Christmas trees have just gone up in Blackburn, Winchester, Portsmouth and Ely cathedrals and Durham Cathedral has announced its 25ft Norwegian Spruce will be switched on by a doctor and a nurse from University Hospital of North Durham in recognition of their life-saving work on the frontline during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Wells, Wakefield, Bradford, Lichfield, Gloucester, Chichester, Rochester, Southwell and Bury St Edmunds cathedrals have launched online Advent calendars today which offer a musical treat, reflection, testimony or festive activity each day until Christmas Eve. St Albans Cathedral has launched its Nativity play created by its Children’s Church. Check out the individual cathedral’s social media to find out how to open the doors!

Chester Cathedral opens two new art installations this Thursday – part of its annual Christmas Tree festival designed to inspire the local community and beyond in this pandemic year.

Starry Starry Night is a constellation of hundreds of stars surrounding one large bright star, all suspended on gold and silver ribbons from the crossing in the centre of the Cathedral designed by artist Peter Walker whose national touring exhibition, Leaves of the Trees featuring 5,000 steel leaves inscribed with the word HOPE scattered in the cathedral’s Chapter House will also open.

Twinkling stars Chester Cathedral Light and Hope

The Dean of Chester, the Very Revd Dr Tim Stratford says

“As we near the end of this very challenging year, we think of ourselves as very fortunate to be re-opening to visitors and pleased to host Peter Walker’s emotional installation which I hope will become a place for reflection, for hope and strength for the people of Chester and beyond.

I hope too, that as the installation sits within our Christmas Tree Festival, that it brings joy, and inspires people to look beyond the pandemic, to celebrate Christmas safely, with family and with God.”

Thought to be the biggest in the country, York Minster’s huge Advent wreath created by the Cathedral’s flower-arrangers, was lifted into place on Friday signalling the start of the season. It is the first time in three years the wreath has been installed due to internal scaffolding.

Cathedral Christmas York Minister Wreath

The Dean of York, the Right Revd Jonathan Frost, said:

“The four weeks of Advent give us all an opportunity to prepare for Christmas, to reassess priorities and to allow the Light of Christ into the dark and hurt corners of our lives. For many of us the experience of Covid-19 will have led to a fresh realisation of what really matters most.”

Wakefield Cathedral has announced a re-imagined Christmas programme which includes lighting up the building in red and green, an online nativity created by the choristers in lockdown, pop-up carols across the city, an online advent calendar and a nativity service with a difference.

Ely Cathedral’s 30ft Christmas Tree is to be blessed and have all 500 lights officially switched on via a special online broadcast – just one of several events for Christmas including wreath making workshops, festive family activities and trails and Christmas music by the choristers.

The Very Revd Mark Bonney, Dean of Ely said:

“We are delighted to be able to welcome back worshippers and visitors and to be sharing the joy of Christmas with you all. Through technology we are able to engage with people all over the world, and it has been very exciting how far afield our livestreamed services have been shared.

“However, nothing replaces the joy of meeting together and worshipping together, not least in the beautiful and hallowed space that is Ely Cathedral. While we cannot join in the singing of carols, our hearts can sing and we hope to welcome as many people as current restrictions will allow over the coming weeks as once again we celebrate the wonderful truth of this, and every Christmas, that ‘God is with us’ – that, whatever happens, ‘God is with us”.

Lichfield Cathedral is taking many of its popular Christmas services outside this year, including carol services, its Lantern Service and its Christmas Eve Crib service when it invites families to come dressed as nativity characters to help re-enact the story of Christmas.

Cathedral Christmas Lichfield Out door carols

They have also introduced three special themed evenings that will see the Cathedral open late for people to drop in and reflect on national and international issues.

The Dean, the Very Rev Adrian Dorber said:

“Advent anchors us in hope. As a Cathedral at the heart of our community, we want to help deliver a sense of that hope to all who come to us (online or in person) during this season.”

Truro Cathedral’s Christmas Festival of music starts on Monday until Sunday 13 December
with a one-hour offering of carols by Truro Cathedral Choir that will combine traditional favourites with sparkling new arrangements. To control numbers there will be a ticketing system. Book tickets here.

Bury St Eds has just announced its Christmas programme of services plus two new initiatives to mark the journey through Advent this year. A Cathedral Posada will be visiting various locations and community groups across the city looking for a bed for the night and each day a door of their musical Advent Calendar will open bringing a range of seasonal music, organ and choral recitals.

The Dean, the Very Revd Joe Hawes said:

‘Christmas will be different this year, like it or not, but it doesn’t have to be without comfort and joy.

“As we move through Advent, let’s focus on the comfort and joy you can bring to others this year. That might be by standing on the doorstep of your neighbour who you know will be on their own this year, by the shopping trip you make for someone who is vulnerable or by making a donation to your local Foodbank.’

Expect most Cathedral services to be free but ticketed to manage numbers and maintain social distance. Similarly outdoor services will be managed safely too using a ticketing system to maintain social distancing. Please visit individual Cathedral websites to find out more and learn how to book your place.