Following the star in Aintree
In light of strict restrictions, Hope Community Church Aintree put its resources into something totally different this Christmas
During the uncertainty of the November lockdown, many of our churches began to ask some difficult questions about what December might look like. The newspapers sensationalised headlines were filled with phrases about Christmas being cancelled, which provided us as the church with a wonderful opportunity to reimagine how to share the real meaning of Christmas with our communities.
In the shadow of the famous racecourse, Aintree Village is a small and close-knit community. At the heart of it is a local Baptist church, Hope Community Church Aintree. Like many of our churches, they asked the same question about what may be possible for Christmas services. However, instead of throwing more resources at better online content or navigating the Government rules to open for worship for the few rather than the many, Hope Community Church Aintree put its resources into something totally different.
#Followthestaraintree was a trail of ten stars located outdoors in different places around Aintree Village, beginning at Hope Community Church Aintree and going via each local church, primary school, community spaces and even a local pub car park. Each star had a QR code which, when scanned with a smartphone, played a short video of a character from the Christmas story telling their perspective of what happen at the first Christmas, before telling the viewer where to find the next star.
Newly Accredited Baptist Minister, the Revd Lee Jennings (pictured, left) of Hope Community Church Aintree said, 'Before the November lockdown, Merseyside was the first area to be in Tier 3 in the country; when lockdown hit, we knew that any Christmas outreach would have to be very different this year.
'We wanted to plan something which would bless the community, share the hope-filled message of Christmas, and be possible no matter which level of restrictions we found ourselves in come December – something which could be done alone, in a household or group of six.'
Whereas Hope Community Church Aintree organised the trail, Follow the Star Aintree became a churches together initiative with each of the local ministers taking ‘acting roles’ in the videos.
'We had the local Priest as a wise man, our Methodist friends at the inn, Lee as a shepherd and our local vicar was the donkey!' said Aaron Waters, Youth and Children's Worker at HCCA, who worked on scripts, filming and editing the videos (pictured right).
'Instead of this becoming something led by one church,' said Lee, 'the beauty of #followthestaraintree was that it became a churches together initiative, and something for the whole village. At such a time of crisis, we felt our community needed to know the hope of Jesus unites us, and as the churches we were able to demonstrate that practically.'
Members of each church were encouraged to take the trail as an opportunity to prayer walk the area, and all of the publicity was done via Facebook. The tracking feature made it possible to see how often the trail was viewed, with some days having up to 16 groups watching the videos. The trail also included a prayer and reflection station, where people could write names or situations to be prayed for on gift tags.
'Our hope was that through the different perspectives of those in the Christmas story, the community could capture something of the message of hope at Christmas, and of God who can work in and through many difficult circumstances.'