Thank you to Clare Mees and Zoe Maitland Round, Messy Church Leaders; St Mary’s Church, Langford for sharing how – despite the Covid restrictions – they their brought the Christmas story to life in Langford.
On Saturday 19th December, as it was getting dark, local families started arriving in their pre-booked slots to experience the Christmas Story as never before!
On arrival families were welcomed by familiar Messy Church leaders, Clare and Zoe and given a bag to collect crafts in and glow stick bracelets to wear. Teams of face-masked helpers offered them hot mulled wine and children’s drinks while they waited for their turn. A large band played Christmas carols and songs in front of the fairy lit church. An air of excitement filled the air as no one knew quite what to expect.
When it was time, the family ‘bubble’ was escorted around to the back of the church to a gazebo decked out as Joseph’s carpentry room. A pregnant Mary and Joseph acted out a contemporary sketch for a couple of minutes bringing the Christmas story into the 21st century and bringing it alive for children and adults alike. Children collected a Mary and Joseph Christmas card craft (all pre-bagged per child) and were escorted to the next gazebo. This one depicted the innkeeper having to shut her doors to the public for COVID-19 regulations and only having a stable for her pregnant guest. The gazebo looked just like a pub bar! Children collected a hanging angel craft after this gazebo. Fairy lights led families onto the third gazebo where they watched with curiosity as two ‘nurses’ were chatting during their break about shepherding their patients (sheep). Children collected an edible sheep craft after this sketch and then were led via a trail of lanterns to the final gazebo. The ‘wise woman’ was chatting about finding the star. Her gazebo was bedecked in middle eastern cloths and carpets, with lamps and fairy lights giving the place an eerie mystical feel. She was watching for the star through her telescope. Children collected a telescope craft here.
Families followed a fairy lit path round the back of the church and emerged back with the band in our one-way system. At the exit gate, children were given chocolate lollies and reindeer food and parents were handed luxury chocolates and thanked for coming.
There was a collection for Tear Fund at the gate (there was no entry fee) raising £150.
One added attraction in our church grounds was the Shetland pony, ‘Colin’, who enjoyed eating hay and being stroked by all the families as they passed between the gazebos. Thanks to Colin and Nina Herons for putting up with 2 hours of getting cold!
We received the most amazing feedback and thanks from families as they left and since then verbally, by text and email. Our fabulous team of helpers loved the experience just as much. Our Messy Church leadership team felt that we had managed to adhere to COVID-19 regulations and yet tell the Christmas story in a novel and exciting way to our local community.
Many thanks to Wrington Drama Group for their acting expertise, Ian Maitland Round and Lydia Barker for the script writing, to all those who played in our Christmas band, those who organised the hospitality, those who resourced and put together all the craft bags, Churchill Primary School for lending the gazebos, Churchill and Langford Village Fund for their generous donation to Messy Church that enabled the event to be free to families and of course to our team of stewards who helped guide families.
The event saw 65 children pass through (35 family groups) and several adult-only bubbles came to experience Christmas and enjoyed it without any children!
Our initial disappointment at not being able to deliver our regular annual Christmas workshop was transformed by God into excitement as the idea emerged of delivering a contemporary Christmas storytelling that inspired and engaged both children and adults alike, in a magical Christmassy setting.
God even stopped the rain five minutes before the start and it stayed dry for the full two hours. We felt blessed!
Don’t let our current COVID-19 circumstances and restrictions, restrict what we can do for God!