Friday, December 18, 2009

Question for the Community: Congregational Traditions

A lot of focus this time of year is put on traditions inside of people's homes, or family traditions outside of the home. My wife and I are currently wrestling with ideas for how we will begin traditions, and what to begin, within our family of three. We realize that we will never be a family unto ourselves on Christmas as we will spend time with either my family or hers. (Hi Paul and Sarahlynn!) I'm not indicating that this is a bad thing. On the contrary, it's a wonderful thing to be able to spend time with our families whom we value very highly in our lives. We are struggling with how to set up traditions for our three that are meaningful for us as a unit without affecting others. Anyway, that's my story.

We live just north of Washington, DC.  One of the jobs that I am tasked with in the Presbytery office is to collect special worship information from our congregations for Lent and Advent.  It's really neat for me to see what different churches do to celebrate together while inviting others to join them.  We have one church that does a brief service and bag lunch on Wednesdays for Advent.  A couple of churches do live Nativities.  One church that does a really big Christmas Dinner.  It really makes me want to worship with a different church once or twice - if I only had the time!

So - my question for this month (and based on my posting, question to encompass the whole fall!) is:
What traditions happen in your congregation for the Advent Season?
Have you heard of traditions in other congregations that you want to try?
Do you go to another church to celebrate some of their traditions?


Quotidian Grace said...

I love a traditional Anglican-style Lessons and Carols service at Advent, as does my family. This year we found one at the Episcopal Cathedral in Houston.

RobMonroe said...

Our church does a Thanksgiving Dinner to kick off the season - five people cook the turkeys, gravy and stuffing then everyone is assigned to a table. Within the table everyone decides on sides they will all bring. All of the deserts that come in become communal, too. After the meal there is a short meditation and some singing. It's a wonderful way to re-center before the season!

ghendershot said...

At the Church of the Pilgrims (PCUSA)in DC we do "choral readings" of the Hebrew scripture during Advent. A member scripts the lesson for different voices, and directs simple gestures and movements that are rehearsed (briefly) and performed by 4-8 members.

Sarahlynn said...

I used to think that we didn't need any family Christmas traditions of our own because Christmas would always be spent with my family of origin or my husband's. But the older my children get (they're currently 6 and 2) the more we adore having family traditions for every occasion, but especially for holidays. And Christmas is a biggie. (We already have several important Advent traditions.) I can definitely see a time when we will refuse to travel for Christmas and indeed will want a piece of individual family time amongst all the wonderful extended family mayhem.

As for church, I love how we kick off Advent with a big pancake breakfast and hanging of the greens. (At the beginning of the new year - oddly before Epiphany- we unhang the greens with a chili luncheon.)

I love our weekly Advent and Lenten musical series (Sunday evening Con Spirito during Advent and Lenten Meditation on Fridays at noon during Lent).

A new "tradition" this year: a Christmas coffee house. This afternoon many of us gathered in our church fellowship hall with furniture arranged to look like a coffee shop facing a small stage. The son of members has a professional jazz/folk/pop band. They played some wonderfully and uniquely arranged jazzy Christmas music - sometimes with vocals, sometimes without - while we had cookies and fruit, punch and coffee. Interspersed with the songs were poems read by one of our pastors and a lovely Christmas story told by a professional story teller in our congregation. It was a fabulous afternoon!

jairus' daughter said...

from two different congregations:

1) lostine, Oregon has a carol sing on a horse-drawn sleigh, followed by a community dinner. You really can't beat that.

2) Leonia NJ has a xmas MORNING service, with opportunity for special music (families are asked to bring a song to sing as an anthem), and celebrates communion. The whole thing is done with guitars and fiddle, no pipe organ.
I love it!