A good Christmas Eve service for a small church

I attended the Christmas Eve service at the Swedenborgian Church of the Holy City: I wrote about this service in 2005 and 2004.

The service is essentially the same as I wrote in 2005 except there were more people present and it began at 5pm. I didn’t time it but think the whole thing took 30 to 40 minutes. I like this. Too many of the services I’ve attended have been about 30 minutes too long (90 minutes or more!) and “festal” to the point of being precious.

A couple of more points to add from the 2005 description.

  • Liturgists actually walk and talk at the same time; say, opening the offering while walking down from the altar with the offering plates, or welcoming the congregation after walking from the Opening of the Word (literally opening the altar Bible; a Swedenborgian practice) back to the lecturn from which the service is conducted. This looks very natural and composed.
  • They know that a carol in a carol service isn’t necessarily a carol. A responsive reading or a “musical interlude” — Es ist ein Ros entsprungen on piano tonight — is just as appropriate and takes some of the strain off the vocal cords. Very nice.
  • The last liturgical action — after the lit candles bit — was very nice and the kind of thing only a very small church can do: process to the rear of the church singing “Silent Night” holding our candles. Benediction from there and people either leave or visit. A physical action visually matching the theme of the light spreading out into the world.