Missional carol service?

Stephen Lingwood (Reignite) asks if a Christmas carol service can be missional. Sure: I’d think you’re more likely to get people in the doors for a carol service than any other single service of the year, except perhaps Easter.

I don’t understand the UK religion scene, but I bet the following are true:

  • Timing. Does the service come at a time when people are most receptive? This year I’d stick on in the evening of the 23rd, as Sunday nights are the quietest and widely accounted the loneliest time of the week. Plus, less conflict with the churches that can pull the stops on the 24th. I’d also keep it shorter than usual. A King’s College do seems about 50% too long for me to be happy. (Unless I’m listening to it on the BBC and can bake cookies at the same time.)
  • Set a tone. Why, in America, does Christmas bring out the worst of Merry Olde England kitch? A backwards and unreflective goal of being authentic in form, but not character? A variant of this is the Dedication to Good Music cult; if I can get through Christmas without hearing anything by John Rutter so much the better. There has to be something better, and besides, if that’s not how you worship, then how is it not false advertising?

That’s a quick thought. Any other ideas?

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. I absolutely agree that timing matters very much during the holiday season. A quieter observance, a moment of peace, would likely be welcomed by many during the bustle.

    As for choral music, we attended Christmas with the ASO this past Saturday, and there definitely wasn’t a single Rutter arrangement to be found on the whole program. This does not surprise me, given what a purist Robert Shaw was. Shaw’s Christmas albums provided the soundtrack for my holiday memories, with Dad singing along as he got the ornaments down from the top of the hall closet to decorate the tree.

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