Special Times and Seasons

There are particular times of the year, and some particular moments in life, at which the Christian church often looms a little larger than is usually customary for those who have no specific attachment to a faith community.  Such occasions are most commonly connected to special times of the year; typically Christmas and Easter, but depending on the context and the community, ‘one off’ anniversary services, or annual events such as a patronal or other festival, may also take on special importance; and to special life events (or rites of passage), such as a baptism, confirmation, a marriage, funeral or memorial service. At times of national or international disaster, conflict, or public grief, the parish church may also assume a new importance for large numbers of people in the community. On all of these occasions, and at these special times, and life events, the Christian church becomes especially attractional, and, correspondingly, a wealth of opportunities emerge for providing and nurturing points of connection, for the offering of Christian ministry, and for finding pathways for those who come to us, into the life of faith itself, and into a faith community.

Life Events

When they come to us

A guide for making the most of the many opportunities presented by those who ‘come to us’ requesting rites of passage (baptisms, marriages, funerals) has been compiled by Bradly Billings, arising out of several years experience in a parish church experiencing very high demand for pastoral services.

Baptism

A simple 'how to' manual, including good suggestions for welcoming enquiries for Christian baptism, together with a range of resources for preparation, the ceremony itself, and follow up, has been compiled by Nick & Hazel Whitehead (writing in the Church of England context), and is available in full via Google Books.

Weddings

For a current snapshot of weddings in Australia today - 

The Church of England wedding project has a wealth of information written for the British context.

A related resource available for purchase from Church House publishing is ‘The Church Weddings Handbook,’ which identifies seven key moments for real missional engagement with couples.

Similarly, drawing on many years' experience as a parish priest as well as 'good ideas' used by parishes throughout the UK, Andrew Body offers advice and practical wisdom for ‘Making the Most of Weddings’, also available for purchase from Church House publishing.

Times of sorrow

A comprehensive resource for 'ministry in disaster settings,' arsing out of the Australian experience (case studies include the Granville train disaster and the Port Arthur massacre), has been compiled by Stephen Robinson.

An extensive collection of resources has been prepared by Carol Noren. 

An example of a sermon preached in tragic circumstances, at a time of communal grief, is provided by Stuart Briscoe via 'Preaching Today'.

Seasons

The annual observance of Christmas and Easter usually bring a wealth of opportunities for Christian churches to make connections with large numbers of people in the community who might not attend a church at other times.  

Christmas 

A survey of parish's in the southern region of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, conducted just after Christmas 2012, returned some interesting responses, indicating overall increases in Christmas attendances and especially at dedicated Children's services, together with large rises in the use of social media to advertise service times and the use of data projection during the actual services. 

Tom Bandy rightly identifies the ongoing missiological importance of Christmas in the postmodern context: “in the postmodern and post Christendom world, public interest in Christmas rapidly rises to literally a fever pitch … and just as rapidly subsides into indifference. The church has a brief window of opportunity to communicate a brief, clear, life-transforming message that will change the lifestyles of a spiritually hungry, institutionally alienated public.”

Church Army (UK) provide ideas for outreach over Christmas.

David Hakes argues that your church should be planning for Christmas outreach now

Easter

Church Army (UK) provide ideas for outreach over Easter.