The pandemic has forced many United Methodist Churches in the Great Plains to call off or reinvent some Advent and Christmas traditions.
But it has also sparked what may be the beginnings of new traditions, reaching out in new ways.
There are some examples of churches that have made changes for the holiday season:
At Edgerton UMC, Christmas bags were distributed to its members.
“Inside each bag were a book of liturgies for the four Sundays of Advent, plus Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Epiphany; five battery-powered mini-candles to use with the liturgies; an Advent calendar of devotions for the whole season; a couple of mints; a party popper for New Year’s Eve; and a ‘Chalking the Doors’ sign to put over a doorway for the new year,” wrote the Rev. Jim Hopwood, the church’s pastor.
“The bags were distributed on Nov. 22, the last Sunday the church held in-person worship. Those who attended took bags to those who couldn’t be there – a friendly and efficient way of getting them out,” he added.
Hopwood wrote the liturgies, and parishioners could follow along during the Sunday webcast. The Advent devotional by Jenny Smith was published by Abingdon Press and purchased through Cokesbury.
It wasn’t an original idea, Hopwood said – “I got it from a webinar in September hosted by Adam Hamilton,” he said. “It was fun to assemble, and people seem to have loved it.”
At Council Grove Dunlap and Wilsey UMCs, 10 Advent boxes were delivered to families with younger children before the beginning of the Advent season, the Rev. Brenda Davids said.
“Each box contained an Advent wreath, pink and purple candles, a Creche, a paper chain craft to add a paper link each day of Advent, an Advent calendar with little ‘doors’ that open on each day, and a supplies to make a pinecone bird feeder,” Davids wrote.
Worship for the churches is inspired by popular Christmas songs, leading off with Perry Como singing “Frosty the Snowman.”
Like many other churches, Salina University UMC is working ahead of time, recording a Christmas Day communion service. But what makes it unique is the audience it reaches.
“This service is special because it is in three languages: English, Spanish, and Portuguese,” University’s pastor, Nick Talbott, wrote. “We have ministry leaders in our church congregation that represent these communities. …
“Filming this was a special moment, as tears ran down the face of our two readers. ‘I have never heard this liturgy in my own language.’ The service can be seen on the Facebook pages of UUMC and the Hutchison-Salina districts.