Advent Day 25: My first Christmas as a parish minister

Rev William Boyle, who was ordained and inducted in to Port Glasgow New Parish Church in March, reflects on his first year as parish minister.

Rev William Boyle was ordained and inducted this year in March
Rev William Boyle was ordained and inducted in March of this year.

In March this year I was ordained and inducted in to my first charge of Port Glasgow New Parish Church after completing my ministry training. My ordination and induction was not what anyone was expecting as it was the very week that church closures were announced, and the country went in to national lockdown.

As I write this, we are still in the midst of a national health emergency, our country is split into tier restrictions with my local council area, Inverclyde sitting on tier 3 but kept under close review by the government.

If anything, this time of restrictions and lockdown has shown us more than ever that the church is not the building, the church is its people. Very quickly I had to learn how to upload church services to Facebook and Youtube. I wasn't able to visit any of my new congregation or get to know them properly, I was due to conduct my first wedding in July which has to be cancelled, funerals were restricted in number and I couldn't even visit the bereaved which was tough.

On a positive note however, I found it really important to find ways to connect with our community and congregation in different ways. We worked with our community partners like Police Scotland, B&Q and others to create a new look church garden; a group of 12 new members have just been through the new communicants class on Zoom Pro and will be inducted as soon as we can; we have six baptisms in the diary for the future; I walk the town on a regular basis which gives me the opportunity to meet people from the parish and my own congregation; our community helped us in knitting poppies for a remembrance display outside; and we now focus on Advent and Christmas, thinking outside the box, all with community connection in mind.

As we moved into November and still under tough restrictions, people started to focus on what Christmas would be like this year, with some even going as far as to say that Christmas will be cancelled and we should be prepared for a digital Christmas at home.

I think it is important for all of us as Christians to really get the message out there this year that Christmas is not cancelled. Yes, Christmas will be different but in the sense that we might not be able to visit family and friends or go along to the work Christmas party but despite all of that, it is by no means cancelled because as we know, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, the light of the world, the light that not even coronavirus can extinguish. It is heartening to hear of so many churches, my church included who are getting ready to celebrate Advent and Christmas with their parishes despite everything that is going on by finding new and creative ways to do so.

This week, let us pause to remember what Christmas is all about, the opportunity to celebrate the birth of a tiny baby, not born into luxury or wealth, but born in a stable. Not just any baby, but the son of God. Christmas reminds us of the gift of his life, death, and resurrection. Christ is the hope of the world. God came to this earth in the person of Jesus because he loves each one of us, with a love and light which will shine on forever. Christmas this year is not cancelled, because Jesus is the reason for this coming season.

From myself and the congregation of Port Glasgow New Parish Church, we wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.