Away in a Manger…

A while ago I mentioned the Crib and Wreath Festival at our local church, and the contribution the Knit and Stitch group were working on.  Last week we all gathered at the church to set up our pieces in readiness for the Festival.  At time like this you see anew the beauty of the typical English church and St Michael and All Angels at Barton Turf is very typical.  It is, of course, far to big for the parish it serves which now no longer has even a village shop, and so it functions under that peculiar regime of worship and fund-raising found up and down the country these days.

   Inside, the stalwart band of ladies essential to the running of any village affair mustered their troops.  How could anything function without these unpaid treasures who organise events, arrange flowers, polish pews,  run errands and generally oil the wheels of rural life?  Years of fundraising for St Michael’s has resulted in the recent installation of a loo and small kitchen, no mean feat to sympathetically integrate these modern necessities into the architecture of a 14th Century church, but it does allow it to function as a community centre, and give it a role which justifies its upkeep.  And means a plentiful supply of soup, rolls, tea and cake for visitors to its various displays, festivals and celebrations. (and coffee and biscuits when you turn up on a cold wet morning to set up your stand!)

I was really happy with the swags we had made for the font, a loose interpretation of the wreath idea which  meant that there were four pieces to be entered for the secret auction, and the rich colours looked beautiful against the pale old stone.  The Knit and Stitch Ladies had been really busy making small items for sale, knitted crackers, stockings and baubles, crochet snowflakes, gift bags, angels and hearts, and the whole display was topped off with an amazing knitted crib scene.  I apologise for the lack of photos at this point, I was over absorbed by the task in hand!

Yesterday afternoon I persuaded my mother out of her house to visit the festival.  Not easy these days now she is wheelchair bound and these things involve ramps and other people fussing.  She hates to feel she is a nuisance.   I’m so glad I did.  The weather was sunny, with a gentle breeze, the church was bright and warm and there were lots of people she knows but hardly sees these days.  She loved the exhibits and then, unexpectedly, there was a Navity Tableau put on by the local primary school.  Are you, like me, completely undone by a childrens Nativity play?  Our local rock star(well he would have been, given the right breaks) strummed carols softly on his guitar while his wife read the Christmas story as the children enacted it.  At the first sight of Joseph in his dressing gown, teatowel on head and glasses slightly crooked, alongside a diminutive Mary teaming traditional blue with Ugg boots, the pair of us welled up.  The shepherds tramped down from the hills in search of baby Jesus, who had been found with surprise under her chair by Mary, and quickly recovered for a cuddle.  As the shepherds reenacted their route from the hills by walking up and down the aisles (gently steered at the corners by a grownup when they looked as if they were heading off course) the smallest one happily swung his lamb backwards and forwards in the air.  Angel Gabriel looked stern, the star twinkled prettily as she led the Kings to the stable, the rock star played ‘Away in a Manger’ and Mother and I dabbed our eyes.

What nicer way to start the run up to Christmas?


2 Responses

  1. The last nativity I went to was at my daughter’s old school in the UK – when Joseph stood up and announced his name to the audience, his little brother shouted back from his mother’s knee, “no you’re not, you’re Max”! Then spent the rest of the time waving at him. Kleenex as standard for these events.

    The church looks beautiful.

  2. Thank you so much for that lovely blog on children, nativity plays and paper hankies. It brought back so many memories of my children.
    Especially one which took place during midnight mass, concerning a huge plastic turkey, a bottle of wine and an enormous box of chocolates. We were living in a rather progressive parish at the time and our priest was sending a strong message out that Christmas was more than eating drinking and making merry. Which, of course, was true. But, of course, it being a French parish and French congregation, we were all rather shamefaced as we sang our last carol, genuflected, left the church and hurried home to an enormous meal, usually consisting of oysters and foie gras.
    Happy days!!
    love Rose
    belle mère mafia

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