Last year 2.6 million people attended C of E churches over the Christmas with a further 131,000 attending Cathedral services.

With such huge numbers visiting our churches over the next few days; how can we ensure our churches are sanctuaries for those who might be struggling this festive season as part of our year-long #Sanctuary campaign

Firstly, ensure you have a welcome team to make sure that visitors know where to sit, where to get refreshments and are made to feel comfortable.

Secondly, as tempting as it is to force everyone to sit at the front, remember that those with mental health issues, disabilities or those dealing with grief may want some space to sit nearer exits or the end of rows to make them feel safer and more comfortable – by all means encourage those who can to fill from the front but try not to be too militant about it!

Thirdly, acknowledge that Christmas can be a hard time as well as a joyful time. Whether this be by holding a special Blue Christmas lament service or praying for those who are struggling in your services, allowing talk of those who find Christmas tough can help churches be safer places.

Fourthly, help those who might otherwise be alone on Christmas Day to find a space at a Christmas table whether it be at your own home or by linking up with campaigns such as Premier’s Christmas Alone.

Finally, it’s what you’re already doing! Sharing the gospel is what makes our churches sanctuaries; the story of the God of the universe coming down in the person of Jesus to experience the whole spectrum of human emotion as Immanuel. That we are saved because Jesus came, welcomed by no-one so that we may be welcomed by Him.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel