Well, we’ ve been doing our bit to light up Holy Trinity, with a Christmas Tree Festival. 22 different organisations, charities and businesses have each decorated a tree in the church, and added a bit about themselves. (It’s one of the times that having a big church is a real asset rather than a maintenance nightmare.)
Lots of the decorations have evoked the themes of the organisations – ballet shoes for the dance class, minature tins for the Start Up Stirling (packs for the homeless); flip flops for Stirling Street Pastors, and – as you can just see above – a red-brown army mug for Erskine, which cares for veterans.
It’s been a great way to connect with the community around us – as one of them said, ‘Giving us space inside your church’, and I think she meant not just physical space. And there have been lots of events happening during the festival, with the primary School Choir, and a ballet display, and handbell ringers, and a carol service (packed out!); tomorrow, it’s the Christingle service.
Of course, the best bit is the conversations you have. I’ve ranged from the spirituality of mountain tops to the habits of pet chickens. We invited those who have been married or christened in Holy Trinity to come and visit, and they had their names on their own special tree. I get the sense that it’s important for many people that the church is still there; that its doors are (at least sometimes) open to them; that they know that it has been a place of sanctuary and prayer between their visits. And just sitting down with them to catch up with news matters.
It’s a lot of work. I’m not sure we’ll raise a lot of money for this year’s charity (Erskine). But it’s been one of the happiest times at Holy Trinity that I can remember. And then we heard about the shootings in Connecticut. It seemed somehow important to keep that light and warmth alive as a minuscule counterpoint to the darkness. The children who were so happily exploring the trees became more precious than ever. And when we sang ‘O Christmas tree’ (Tannenbaum), which I associate somehow with USA, it brought us closer in spirit to those who grieve, with words as defiant as they were hard to sing:
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your beauty green will teach me
That hope and love will ever be
The way to joy and peace for me …