AN INCUMBENT who held a Christmas service in mid-July says that Christians should celebrate the birth of Jesus all year round.
The Team Rector of Dunstable, Bedfordshire, the Revd Rachel Phillips, presided at a service that included carols, a nativity play, and a visit from Father Christmas, on 25 July — seven months after last year’s Christmas Day service had been due to take place.
Covid restrictions had made it impossible for it to go ahead as planned at Dunstable Priory Church, in St Albans diocese; so Ms Phillips made alternative arrangements.
Last weekend, about 100 parishioners, wearing Christmas jumpers, reindeer antlers, and Santa hats, attended the outdoor service. Afterwards, the congregation enjoyed a picnic of turkey sandwiches and mince pies.
Although this service had been delayed because of Covid, Ms Phillips has, however, been celebrating Christmas in the summer for many years. “I firmly believe that Christmas is not just for Christmas,” she said. “Jesus’s birth is not something we only celebrate on one day of the year; we can, and should, celebrate it all year round.
“Last year, at midnight mass, which we live-streamed to about 400 viewers, I threw out an invite to join us to celebrate Christmas together in June of this year. Ultimately, our risk assessments didn’t allow that to happen; so we pushed it back to July instead.
“But I’ve actually been celebrating Christmas in the summer since 1984, and, when I was at training for ministry, I wrote a Master’s thesis on why Christmas is not just for Christmas. We should be celebrating the birth of Christ every day.”
It is also, she said, a useful tool for reaching out. “I’ve found it a really helpful way to grow the church. At this service, we had lots of children and their parents — not all of them are regular churchgoers. We also had passers-by who stopped to join in.
“We were lucky with the weather; if we had tried to do this the week before, it would have been much too hot, but, in fact, it was just right for wearing Christmas jumpers in the churchyard.
“Because of Covid, we asked everyone who attended to take a lateral flow test before coming, and we made sure that everyone was spaced out. We encouraged those who wanted to wear a mask to do so.
“Although we should have put Covid restrictions behind us by this time next year, we may well continue to celebrate Christmas in the summer. I think we may have set ourselves a little tradition.”