Christmas is different at Ripon Cathedral this year because of COVID-19 restrictions but there are still plenty of familiar services and new experiences to enjoy. The big change this year is that social distancing has meant fewer people can attend so bookings for the major services must be made in advance.
To help people get into the spirit of Christmas, there will be four services of lessons and carols at 5.30pm on December 19, 20, 23 and 24. The service on December 23 will be live streamed and remain available to watch on YouTube.
On Christmas Eve at 11am a family-friendly service, Journey to Bethlehem, will be held with children encouraged to dress as characters from the nativity and join in the story. Midnight Mass and the blessing of the crib will take place at 11pm.
The popular Christmas Day Festal Eucharist with the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev Nick Baines, will take place at 10.30am and also be streamed live. It will be sung by the lay clerks and choristers of Ripon Cathedral Choir.
Many of these services are almost fully booked; check the website at www.riponcathedral.org.uk/Christmas but remember you can join in with several of the services on-line if you are unable to attend, including a special carol service for those watching at home entitled Carols of Comfort and Joy streamed on December 22 and again – available to watch afterwards on the cathedral’s YouTube channel. Readings – filmed on location across the region – represent those to whom we owe so much this year, such as key workers, farmers and those in the NHS. The order of service is on the website enabling people to sing along at home to the carols they know! Streamed services are accessible via the front page of our website.
Because of Covid-19 restrictions the cathedral and its partners, the National Trust and Ripon City Council, have decided not to hold the traditional Boxing Day pilgrimage to Fountains Abbey or the New Year’s Eve Watchnight Service and candlelit procession.
However, there is a new experience for children to enjoy this Christmas, the Follow a Star trail. Pick up a nativity card, go around the cathedral, guided by a trail of silver stars, and stop at various places to read a rhyme and unpack a clue to discover which of the different characters in the nativity story it refers to. You then search for this character and put your sticker on your nativity card and add it to the big nativity display. Before you leave, you can take home an origami angel and either give it to someone or hang it on your tree. The trail started on December 6 and runs until January 29 whilst the cathedral is open (8.30am-6pm Mon – Sat and 8am-5pm Sun.)
The Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson DL said: “The Follow a Star trail is free, like all our services. Despite the restrictions, we have tried to be imaginative and bring the Christmas story to life. Taking bookings for certain services is the only way we can avoid having to turn away disappointed people at the door this year.
“If you cannot reserve a place, some services will be live streamed online. Since the onset of the pandemic, we have developed our streaming skills and now have a growing community of online worshippers, as well as growing congregations within the cathedral. We look forward to others joining a very welcoming cathedral community.”