Could your parish become a life-size Advent calendar? 

Get inspired by reading Eccleston, St Helens story of making an exciting ‘Advent calendar’ of their own using the windows of parishioners’ homes to countdown the run-up to Christmas.

We’re all familiar with Advent calendars – 24 little doors to help youngsters count down the days to Christmas. Well, last Christmas, the Parish of Eccleston in St Helens decided to make an exciting ‘Advent calendar’ of their own – using the windows of parishioners’ homes to countdown the run-up to Christmas.

Starting on 1st December, 23 homes in the area took it in turns to light-up a decorated window each evening during Advent, each slowly revealing the story of Christmas. The first window, lit on 1st December, was at Christ Church Vicarage itself, and showed a silhouette of a heavily pregnant Mary (made by the Vicar’s Graphic Designer husband, Phil, using paper cut outs) - cradling her growing bump, while in an upstairs window, an Angel trumpeted the good news. As well as the beautiful window display there was a brass ensemble, Carol Singing and complimentary refreshments (including mulled wine and mince pies!) for the many visitors to enjoy - all part of the festive launch. Importantly it wasn’t just regular Church goers who came along, there were new faces, too; neighbours, relatives of Church goers and so on – members of the community who didn’t ordinarily engage with the Church. 
As the Vicarage sits on a busy through road, the window acted as a visual reminder of the true meaning of Christmas to passing motorists, too.

From then on, the baton was passed to the other parishioners who had volunteered, each taking it in turns to display their own decorated windows in the run up to Christmas. Parishioners could make the windows as complicated or as simple as they liked – and to avoid overburdening volunteers, refreshment provision was optional.

To ensure the scheme was well publicised the Church produced a leaflet - detailing the location of the windows and their reveal dates – which it circulated to the community. Details were also included on Facebook and through the local newspaper. The final window, lit on 24th December, was unveiled at Christ Church itself as part of the Church’s popular Christmas Eve Crib Service.

Reader Sue Kirkham, who organised the project at Christ Church, said: “I heard about the scheme being done in Nottingham and thought it seemed like a great idea, so I spoke to the PCC about it and we decided we should give it a go here in Eccleston. Lots of people came to visit the windows – it was a great piece of outreach that children and adults alike could enjoy.
We’re running the scheme again this year and hope that it will grow in momentum each year.”

Rev Sonya Doragh, Vicar of Christ Church, has made resources available via Christ Church’s Facebook page in a group called Advent Windows Resources to help any other Churches in the Diocese who would like to try the scheme for themselves.

Said Rev Sonya: “Seeing so many members of the Church gently sharing their faith through the images in their windows and the hospitality of their heart and home is a beautiful reflection of Christmas.”