|’We’re so used to the Christmas story…But out there, there’s not a lot of hope – and actually, the Christmas story is all about bringing people hope,’ said Warren Evans from Sports Chaplaincy UK, speaking recently on HOPE Together’s Talking HOPE Facebook Live chat show about plans for Christmas.
For years, Sports Chaplaincy UK have partnered with HOPE Together to organise Christmas carol services in sports stadiums. This year, that’s impossible, but earlier in the year, Sports Chaplaincy UK had great success in taking events online. In amongst serving their local communities, delivering food parcels and running mental health support Zoom calls, sports chaplains have been inviting people to engage online with events like National Sports Sunday. They’ve been amazed by how many people have responded – simply because they’ve been told that they are loved, Warren says.
Building on this success, Sports Chaplaincy UK and HOPE Together are partnering this year to run Virtual Carol services. There will be two full services streamed online, but churches and local chaplains also have the opportunity to use it ‘as a pick and mix’. They can choose sections of the service to use, tailoring it to their local community. The services will be led by Jay Lusted, one of the Songs of Praise presenters, and will feature readings and prayers from different national faith leaders, as well as athletes and sports chaplains. The full services will be streamed on YouTube on Tuesday 15th December at 7.30pm and Sunday 20th December at 6.00pm.
The theme is Isaiah 9:6 – Jesus the ‘Prince of Peace’ with Dr Dave Smith, Senior Pastor at Kingsgate Church in Peterborough, as the preacher. The topic links perfectly with The Wellbeing Journey, meaning an invitation to Virtual Carols could easily be followed up by an invitation to join a group on the journey.
To Warren, a focus on wellbeing is a key part of chaplaincy. ‘It’s about taking the opportunity to say “I care about you and actually I don’t want to see you left where you’re at!” We can see broken lives put together… because we know a God who can restore.’
Roy Crowne, HOPE Together’s executive director, says, ‘Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to invite the communities we’re part of to experience the peace that comes from knowing God. Jesus is “the Prince of Wholeness” as The Message version translates Isaiah 9:6. Local churches are in a unique place to lead communities on The Wellbeing Journey to physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. We hope churches will join us on this amazing journey.’
Find out more at www.virtualchristmascarols.co.uk and www.wellbeingjourney.org