Twinkling bright in Sheringham

Published on: 2 June 2018

I’m now in my tenth year of ministry in Sheringham and it was soon after my arrival that I thought a Christmas Tree Festival would look wonderful in the light, wide-open spaces of St Peter’s Church.

I mentioned this idea at a Sheringham Ministers’ meeting to discover that my Methodist colleague had similar plans for his church. We quickly decided that Sheringham didn’t need two festivals and that neither church had the necessary number of volunteers needed to put on such a large-scale event alone. So we started an ecumenical partnership with an organising committee of members from both churches.

Friendship, fun, commitment, hard work and a will to make it work has led to eight years of festivals alternating annually between St Peter’s and St Andrew’s Methodist Church. Organizers and volunteers from both churches offer time and energy to the project no matter where it is being held.

The festival has seen about 3,000 visitors a year including locals and day-trippers from Norfolk and beyond, as well as coach parties travelling from across the UK. On average between 40 and 50 trees are offered to local, regional and national charities who, paying only for a sourced, delivered and discounted real tree, can decorate the tree in their own colours, badges or symbols as well as making available leaflets and publicity to the general public. Visitors can leave donations in buckets at each tree. Over 70 charities have taken part over the years and thousands of pounds has been raised. Last year the festival was expanded into a ‘Christmas Tree, Wreath and Nativity Festival’ that provided great variety and the opportunity for expansive new ideas.

The aim of the Festival has always been to remind everybody about ‘the reason for the season’, to help them explore the story of Christmas in new and exciting ways and see them leave the church knowing that God loves them. We have school visits, teaching sessions, pupils from the local SEN school and charities helping with stewarding as well as ‘posh refreshments’, hot food and charity stalls. Music plays a big part with choirs, recitals, bands, carols and a special ‘Festival Concert’ on the Saturday night. A ‘Festival Act of Worship’ takes place on the Sunday evening and Holy Communion amongst the trees and festive lights on Sunday morning is always much anticipated. Through hard work and ingenuity St Peter’s always manages to make a couple of thousand pounds towards church funds on top of the money raised for the charities.

Planning begins in January; charities are contacted in early summer; publicity in the local press appears at the same time; coach companies are contacted months in advance; musicians are organized and schools invited in early Autumn; trees are then ordered; rotas, stewards, welcomers and money counters are organized; publicity posters are designed and publicity leaflets distributed; in November newspaper articles and radio interviews are broadcast; planning continues through until the day the festival begins, and beyond…

Christmas 2019 is coming… Why not give it a go yourselves!

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