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Stations of the Stable

Behind the Scenes

traditions

On Christmas Eve 2019, hundreds of people attended services at Trinity Anglican Church in Aurora, Ontario.  There were a pageant and youth choir (and harp!) at two family-oriented communion services. There was a service with modern guitar and folk choir music provided by Trinity Unplugged. And a traditional music service with the adult choir.  Services included the singing of “Silent Night” by candlelight after communion.  Earlier in December, there was an Advent Lessons and Carols service with adult and youth choirs, orchestra, and handbell choir.  There were opportunities for volunteering in Outreach activities.  The Youth Group had a party. Friends could catch up at coffee hour after Sunday morning services.

The New Normal

 

Then COVID-19 hit, and our lives were turned upside down.  During the spring and summer lockdown, many joined Trinity’s Tuesday evening Compline Zoom services.  St. James Cathedral provided live-streamed Sunday services via Facebook.

 

When in-person worship resumed in fall 2020, the safe, distanced capacity for Trinity was about 50 people in a service.  More people could watch the Trinity services live-streamed via YouTube. There was no congregational singing.  A single, masked vocal soloist was permitted, with careful protocols. The service could include instrumental or pre-recorded music.

 

Sunday School happened via Zoom – complete with monthly porch drops of activity and craft supplies.  Youth Group met weekly online, all through spring and summer, and launched their own weekly e-newsletters.  Adult study groups met via Zoom.  Trinity Unplugged rehearsed via Zoom.  Committee meetings happened via Zoom. “You’re on mute” became the new “and also with you”.

 

And the question was raised: What could Trinity possibly provide for families for Christmas Eve 2020?

 

How could we provide something meaningful? Christmas carols.  Traditions.  Worship.  The Nativity story. Time with family.  Physical experiences.  Local experiences.  Getting out of the house.

Journeys

 

The season of Advent is a spiritual journey for Christians.  The characters in the traditional Christmas Pageant each journey (to Bethlehem, from the fields, following the star). And for certain, living through 2020 has been an emotional journey for us all.

 

There are precedents for journeys as spiritual disciplines. 

 

  • People walk a labyrinth path as an expression and experience of prayer.

  • During Lent, people walk the Stations of the Cross – with fourteen stations corresponding to events in the Passion of Christ.  Many churches and cathedrals have tiles or signs for the stations built into the walls.

  • People undertake pilgrimages to shrines.  One famous example is the Camino de Santiago de Compostela which leads to the Shrine of St. James (son of Zebedee) in northern Spain. You can find signs with a scallop shell (a symbol of Saint James) embedded in the pavement marking the way, as in Bordeaux or beside a riverside trail in Poitiers – along the traditional route of pilgrims from Paris on their way to Spain.

Could Trinity provide families with a spiritual journey experience?

Stations of the Stable

We decided to adapt the live pageant script and corresponding carols into 6 Stations of the Stable that could be experienced in a variety of ways. Each station would have a key emotion.  Each experience would incorporate walking imagery or actions.

 

  • Our Journey Begins

    • Welcome message

    • Emotion: Curiosity

    • Isaiah 11:1-2 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.  The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

  • Surprising News from an Angel

    • Mary and Gabriel

    • Emotion: Fear

    • Luke 1:28 And Gabriel came to Mary and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.”

  • No Room at the Inn

    • Mary, Joseph and the Innkeeper

    • Emotion: Anxiety

    • Luke 2:5 Joseph went to Bethlehem to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

  • Shepherds Hear the Good News

    • Gabriel, a choir of angels, shepherds.

    • Emotion: Wonder

    • Luke 8:1 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night.  Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them …

  • Away in a Manger

    • Joseph, Mary, Baby Jesus, Magi, Shepherds, Angels

    • Emotion: Joy

    • Matthew 2:9 The wise men set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising until it stopped over the place where the child was.

  • Our Journey Continues with Hope

    • Candlelight “Silent Night” experience

    • Emotion: Hope

    • John 1:1,5 In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

 

Execution

 

If York Region were at Orange level or less, it would have been possible to have stations set up on church property, available for devotional walks during the week of Christmas.  And we could have had QR codes on signs to allow attendees to listen to music at each station.  And there could be space at each station for live tableau actors, during a distanced event on Christmas Eve.

 

But by November, York Region was at Red level – which put strict constraints on even outdoor events – so it was clear we couldn’t have a live tableau.  And with the possibility of a “grey level” lockdown – even self-guided events on church property were not going to be feasible.  It became clear that we would need to provide the Stations of the Stable experiences completely online:

 

1. Live-Action Pageant & Carols – We modified the traditional pageant script. We set up to film scenes in a COVID-compliant manner: outdoors, using family groups for the cast, spaced by at least 6’.  Masked except for brief shots.  Cast and crew attendance kept below the 25-person outdoor event limit during the red level.  We filmed walking imagery.  We included music recorded during services at Trinity in previous years, and a 2020 at-home-choir recording of Silent Night.  We asked the parish to contribute stills for each station as drawings or photos of their creche figures at home. 

 

2. At-Home Experience -  We looked for a way to enable families to set up Stations of the Stable experience in their own homes.  We provided a PDF with one sheet per station with the story, colouring activity, interaction with at-home toys or figures, and QR codes to launch music.

 

3. Virtual Stations Journey & Reflections – We put the content for the planned outdoor walk-through experience on-line.  We included devotional text for adults and family “I wonder…” questions to initiate discussion.  Music for each station was made available on the page.

Your Spiritual Journey

We hope that the Stations of the Stable will add a bit of colour and meaning into your family’s 2020 Christmas.   May the disruption of traditions caused by COVID-19 become an opportunity for us to see faith, community, and worship, with fresh eyes and new-found joy. 

 

Please feel free to share these resources with your friends and family. 

 

And we invite you to make Trinity a home for your spiritual journey, through worship, personal growth, and service to the community and wider world.

 

Merry Christmas!

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Trinity Anglican Church of Aurora is part of the Diocese of Toronto and the Anglican Church of Canada

ABOUT

Office Hours are 8:30 AM to 4 PM Tuesday to Friday. We always check emails and phone messages on a regular basis during the business day. The office will be closed on Mondays until further notice.

905.727.6101

79 Victoria Street

Aurora, Ontario

L4G 1R3

 

info@trinityaurora.ca