BLOG: Interfaith Week Festival Diary – Averil Pooten on Advent

Our Festival Diary blog series invites members and friends of WIN to prepare a ‘festival diary’, exploring the history and significance of specific rituals or outlining the routine of religious celebrations, as a window into the lived experience of people of different faiths. This Interfaith Week, we are sharing three Festival Diaries from friends of WIN to highlight how much we have in common as women of faith, as well as the deeper meaning of our festivals. Our next author is Waltham Forest WIN Co-Chair, Averil Pooten, who looks ahead to the Advent season.


Advent is the preparation before Christmas. The waiting before Christ.  The four candles of Advent represent the four Sundays of Advent, and they respectively symbolize hope, peace, joy, and love.  I’ve written before that in my household it’s usually a rush to prepare for Christmas. In recent years, it’s been through our church family and the activities at St Barnabas that have shaped our Advent.

We start with the First Sunday, lighting the candle of hope. Every first Sunday at St Barnabas, we hold a joint children’s nativity Mass with our sister church, St Saviours. This is soon followed by our annual Christmas fair.

On the Second Sunday, we light the candle of peace at the start of Mass. Later in the afternoon, we hold our E17 Singers and E17 Young Singers Community Choir performance.

On the Third Sunday, we light the candle of joy. Again, later in the afternoon, we hold the Lessons and Carols service.

On the Fourth Sunday, we light the candle of love. This is already Christmas Sunday!  Each activity we offer in Advent has taken on more and more meaning and, upon reflection, has enabled us as a church community to become more involved with the wider community (irrespective of faith).

This year, our church has been heavily involved in supporting the local authority (London Borough of Waltham Forest) in receiving accreditation from the City of Sanctuary to become a Borough of Sanctuary. What this accreditation means is that the council will adhere to supporting VCS (voluntary community sector) stakeholders to be as inclusive and welcoming to everyone, with a focus on refugees, asylum seekers, and those with insecure status.

Additionally, this year in our church community, we have been developing leaders to further our mission, which is outreach to the wider community.  I have seen our collective work as a church community has been unlimited.

Personally, for me, the outreach we have embarked on has been life-giving and purposeful. So, as we await the coming of Christ, I know, for me, I have seen the promise of Advent: the hope, peace, joy, and love in the community outreach we have done and continue to do.

If you would like to submit your own festival diary, please contact
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