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Christmas Celebrations and Services

Volume 723: debated on Thursday 1 December 2022

1. What steps the Church of England plans to take (a) nationally and (b) in Harrow East constituency to celebrate Christmas. (902560)

4. What steps the Church of England plans to take to encourage families and children to attend events and services at their local parish church at Christmas. (902563)

The Church of England’s Christmas resources usually reach around 10 million people, and we hope for the same reach for this year’s “Follow the Star” theme, details of which can be found on the A Church Near You website. Crib, Christingle and carol services will take place in most of our 16,000 parishes and 4,500 primary schools to spread the good news of Jesus’s birth.

I was at one of our churches last night, and I was thanked for giving it work to help answer the question. From the census, we know Christianity is now a minority religion. What further action can the Church take to encourage more people to come back over Christmas, on such a joyous occasion?

I thank my hon. Friend for the support he gives to all the faith communities in his constituency. The answer to his question is in the work taking place in his local parishes. I know he will join me in commending, for example, the work of Rev. Jody Stowell at St Michael and All Angels in Harrow Weald, which is offering a warm welcome space and a special service for those who lost loved ones during the pandemic, and of Rev. Matthew Stone at St John the Evangelist in Great Stanmore, which is offering a united advent service with seven churches across the denominations and a Christmas afternoon tea with children from five local schools. That sort of work shows our churches are right at the heart of our communities.

Events such as the recent Christmas fair at St Luke’s, Torquay and the forthcoming Christmas tree festival at Paignton parish church can provide lots of low-cost fun and support for families facing festive budget pressures. Can my hon. Friend assure me that the Church of England is giving appropriate effort to highlighting this side of parish life, which often leads to families becoming regular churchgoers?

Again, I commend my hon. Friend for the interest he shows in his local churches. He is absolutely right that these types of church event often attract families and children who then become regular attenders. I thank and commend Father Peter March at St Luke’s, Torquay and Rev. Neil Knox at Paignton parish church for everything they do. It is important that they both know their work is noticed and appreciated.

For the record to be factually correct, we should recognise that Christianity is the largest religious group in the United Kingdom, although it may not be the majority. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is important that children are taught the value of the Christmas message and the lesson of thanksgiving at the family events to which he refers?

Yes, I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman. This is an important part of our cultural heritage, and the Church will continue to do that work.