Tree festival – our way
Some churches have a large Christmas tree that dominates the nave, others have tree festivals with magnificent displays filling large spaces and competitions for the best.
St Anne’s Earlham can give you a different version of a tree festival that is mini and still involves the community, it can make you smile and it certainly helps us to celebrate the festival.
Two Christmases ago, I visited the rank of shops across the road from church, chatted to the shopkeepers and got to know them a bit. I asked them if they would be willing to decorate a 40cm high tree for a windowsill in the church and I would provide a poster displaying the name and a photo of their business. It was one of those ideas that popped into my head and it actually worked well; in fact, we have done it for two years now and I think it is here to stay.
What made us smile was the fun that some of the shop workers had obviously had: LED lights inside empty pill bottles from the pharmacy, colourful capsules used as decorations from the vape shop and biscuits from the Co-op strung together across the tree. Also helping us to celebrate were the ones more traditionally decorated with flashing lights and colour schemes and the ones without any scheme at all, just a cheerful dash of colours here and there. The congregation enjoyed them and visitors to the church were intrigued, including some of the very shopkeepers who had contributed so wonderfully. Some of them had never noticed St Anne’s before, even though it is just across the road (albeit a very busy one).
The short-term result was the involvement of local business people in the life of the church and the long-term results are immeasurable, in both senses. People were prayed for, chats were had, relationships were started – one shop and its employees are getting involved in the garden around the church; partly to contribute to the community and partly for their own wellbeing.
One of the trees and their poster can be seen in the photograph and the common sense of purpose is indicated: ‘Serving the community of Earlham together’.
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