Eastlondonlines talks to the Bishop of Southwark in the week before Christmas. We have also printed a small selection of the many Christmas church services across the four boroughs of Croydon, Lewisham, Hackney and Tower Hamlets. It is not too late to have your service included. Click here.
For the Bishop of Southwark, the focus this Christmas will be on refugees, asylum seekers and prisoners.
The Right Rev Christopher Chessun, whose diocese covers Croydon and Lewisham, will be visiting churches and people around the diocese in the run-up to Christmas including a family living in Croydon who moved to the UK as from Togo in West Africa asylum seekers.
When Bishop Chessun first met the huband, he was not certain his wife and children were still alive. “Miraculously, contact was re-established through a number of search agencies.” Many questions followed, including DNA tests. Eventually his wife and two daughters were able to join him here.
Bishop Chessun said: “We have high levels of refugee families and individuals in the diocese which is why we try as a diocese to be Christ-centred. We try to show the love of God to all people, regardless of their faith.”
Christmas can be a time when “things come together” for people, he said. “For myself, I always begin by thinking about my parents who are no longer alive. In particular, my mother made a great thing of Christmas in terms of family gathering. I am very mindful of people for who that is difficult, who are separated from their families in different ways.”
He and the diocese are also concerned for the people in the refugee camp at Calais, and those passing through Europe.
On Christmas Eve, Bishop Chessun will celebrate Midnight Mass at Southwark Cathedral. Then on Christmas Day, he and his episcopal colleagues including Bishop of Croydon Jonathan Clark will visit the five prisons in the diocese. Prisoners are not permitted friends and family visitors on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but bishops are allowed in. The prisons are Wandsworth, Brixton and three in Thamesmead – Belmarsh, the remand prison Thameside and the young people’s prison Isis. Many of those in Thameside are from Lewisham.
After Christmas he will visit the Middle East, including Gaza, a refugee camp in Jordan and Manger Square in Bethlehem in the West Bank.
“Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to reach out a hand of friendship to others,” he said. “My responsibility at Christmas is always outward, focusing on the needs of the whole community.”
Christmas Services Around the Boroughs
St Matthew’s Croydon: Christmas Carols 6pm Dec 20; Christingle 5pm, Carols 11pm and Midnight Eucharist 11.30pm Dec 24; Holy Communion 9.30am Dec 25.
Salvation Army Croydon: Community carol service 10am Dec 20; Carols by Candlelight 7pm Dec 24; Christmas Day Service 10.30am Dec 25.
Emmanuel Croydon: Carol services 11am and 6.30pm Dec 20; Christmas Eve celebrations 4pm and 5.30pm Dec 24; all-age celebration 9.15 Christmas Day.
Croydon Methodists have many services in eight different churches., including Midnight Communion on Christmas Eve in Addington and a Watchnight service on New Year’s Eve in West Croydon. See the full schedule here.
St Stephen’s church: Mass and Nativity 10am Dec 20; Christingle service 4pm, Vigil Mass 5.30pm and Midnight Mass 11.30pm 24 Dec; Mass of the Shepherds 8am and Christmas Day Mass 10am 25 Dec; St Stephen’s Day Patronal Mass Dec 26.
St John at Hackney: Nativity 11am Dec 20; Children’s Carol Service 3pm, Midnight Mass 11pm Dec 24.
Hackney Marsh team ministry: Carols by Candlelight 5pm Dec 20; Midnight Communion 11.15pm Dec 24; All-age service 10.30am Christmas Day; New Year’s Eve Watchnight service at 11.15 pm.
Bow Church: Midnight Mass, 11.30pm, 24 Dec; Christmas Day Communion Service 10am, 25 Dec.
All Saints and St Nicholas churches, Poplar: Crib Service All Saints 4pm, Mass St Nick’s 11.30pm and Mass All Saints 11pm Dec 24; Mass 11am Christmas Day All Saints 11am.