Doing Christmas differently: Religious leaders join together to offer prayers and support this holy week

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Andy Dickenson

Religious leaders across the South East have joined together to offer reassurance and prayers for those finding this Christmas challenging and isolating.

Many will hold their first ever online Christmas Eve Midnight Mass on Thursday (24 December), while tickets to carol services have been booked up weeks in advance, even though the congregations aren't allowed to sing themselves.

The Dean of Canterbury is among those who have been seeking new ways to reach their congregations during a Christmas like no other.

The Dean of Canterbury has been reading sermons online.

The Dean of Canterbury, Very Revd Dr Robert Willis says: "We've had to learn an awful lot of new lessons but we've also got to have the imagination to know that millions of people around the world are locked in their rooms and many of them are by themselves, and now it's become shall we say, second nature to know that you are talking in quite an intimate way really with people across the world who you don't see."

Carols too are changing with these unique times.

Emmanuel Church in Brighton has produced an online Christmas film 'Light in the Dark Place' that's already been viewed 10,000 times.

Emmanuel Church online video

Simon Brading from Emmanuel Church says: "The Christmas story is one of Jesus coming down into darkness and it's that concept we want to take to people right where they're at in their pain. People's needs right now are really real, whatever tier they're in, so it's really important right now that we are able to adapt to all these different tiers to find new ways of meeting people where they're at."

And while the audience grows at home, the pews themselves are cordoned off.

One Catholic church in Worthing would normally expect around 500 worshippers on Christmas Day, but it's fully booked with just more than 80 people.

St Michael's Church in Worthing Credit: ITV News Meridian

Fr Chris Ingle of St Michael's Church says: "It's very strange but I think we're trying to do the best we can in difficult circumstances, as it was in the days of the holy family, all the difficulties they went through - they came through it.'

The spirit of Christmas remains unchanged; the message of hope perhaps more necessary than ever, even if the delivery is different.