Friday, 26 February 2021

Drive-In Christingle Service 2020

The Power of Unity: 'A shining light at the end of a Dark year'

2020 was a challenging for everyone around the world. It has made all of us rethink our priorities. We have had to let go of things that have been part of our daily lives, things that we have taken for granted, little luxuries like sipping a coffee in a café just to read or work or waste time watching the world go by. We have changed how we celebrate birthdays, engagements, christening parties. We can no longer relax in a pub with the 'gang'. Even things that are sacred to us have had to change: weddings and funerals, church services, and formative education for our children. Fundamental things for our basic functioning as human beings reduced to the bare minimum. We have all had to struggle through this year, but the one good thing that has come out of this is that during the struggle to get by; we have been challenged to change how we engage with the world around us. We have had to rethink everything and let go of the things that are truly mere luxuries, and hold on, even harder to the core things that really matter.

For we Moravians, celebrating Christmas was a non-negotiable and congregations around the province, and indeed, around the world, found creative ways to celebrate this truly special season of light and love. The one birthday party this year that was absolutely not going to be canceled was this one. At the heart of our Christmas celebrations in the Irish District, and for many Moravians around the world, is our Christingle service. After the year we have had, we felt that having a full-on Christingle service was vitally important and worth investing considerable resources in to see it done well. As soon as the idea for a drive-in Christingle service was conceived, it was brought to life through the energy, creativity, and dedication of a committee drawn from the churches across the district. All of our churches contributed something to the service: time and participation, equipment, and financial support. The committee added hours of hard work onto their already busy schedules to make sure that everything was perfectly in place. The risks were thoroughly assessed and an extremely detailed plan was put in place. The service offered serious logistical concerns, each concern was discussed and a solution sought. Piece by piece, for well over a month, the committee pulled it together, taking it from a dream to reality.

On the night, when all of the pieces came together, it was an absolute miracle to see it come to life.

This service brought the entire district, and many from the province closer together. It has garnered international attention with people watching from around the world. It struck a chord with the broader community, outside the Moravian Church in Ireland. One newspaper headline proclaimed that this service was: 'A shining light at the end of a Dark year', as people from all around the community joined in. For many of the people who I spoke to after the service, even for those who were not able to join us in person who participated from their homes said that it made their Christmas come to life.

2020 was not a fun year, it was a pretty miserable year, and it is a true joy to see that the light of Christ shines so brightly in the darkness, and that, as a church, as a community of faith shining our Christingle light in the darkness this year made a real impact on the hearts and lives of so many, more than we can ever count, more than we will ever know.

God has given us the creativity to overcome the problems that come our way, the courage to face the unknown, and the desire to share God's love with all who need it so much. Above all, God has given us each other, and together, called to be God's light in the darkness, there is no end to what God is calling us to do, no place God is not inviting us to share this light, this Christmas, next Christmas, and every day in between. Let us seek to find new ways of shining this light in the darkness.

jared stephensBr Jared Stephens
Minister at Cliftonville and Ballinderry Moravian Churches

 

 


 

2021 02 christingle lorry

Behind the scenes at the Irish District Drive in Christingle

Well, it was such a mad idea that it might just work was the consensus view. So, a committee was formed with Br Jared Stephens, Br John Cooper from Cliftonville, Br Henry Wilson from Ballinderry, Sr Lynsey Cunningham from University Road, Sr Roberta Hoey from PEC, Br Raymond Kitson and myself from Gracehill. Ballymena Show Grounds was selected as the venue as it was used to hosting Drive in Services and a site visit was organised.

Br Raymond managed the work at the showground, Sr Lyndsey was invaluable with her experience of event hosting, I held the nativity play portfolio and Br John kept us in order! Weekly planning meetings were held by Jared and others were drawn in to help as needed. Br John Law came up trumps by loaning us a 40ft lorry bed which he drove up on the morning of the Drive in and back home that evening. Eventbrite was used for people to book tickets and to pass on information to those who were coming. A nativity play was arranged, and people were cajoled into taking part in it. Insurance cover was sorted, and risk assessments written. Sr Roberta Gray was in charge of advertising and Br Jared organised a radio interview on Radio Ulster.

A large Moravian star was ordered. This took some time to arrive because the star factory in Herrnhut had shut because of COVID-19 but it eventually arrived! Br Chris Jones took on the task of making a giant Christingle for the stage in the back yard of the Gracehill Manse. Br John filled the Christingle packs in the Cliftonville Church Hall, which was a huge task! The packs contained an orange, frills, sweets etc. and free pens from Kilwarlin, Christingle leaflets, a new leaflet specially printed to introduce the Irish District, a history leaflet and an order of service. It took several van loads to get all the filled Christingle packs up to Gracehill ready for onward shipping to the Showgrounds.

Ballyduff Silver Band were booked to lead the singing. Not long before the Drive in we heard the welcome news that the number of band players could rise from four to 15 so a glorious sound would be heard. A local firm was contracted to set microphones and FM radio transmission so folk could hear it in their own car radios. Radio Cracker came and set up the live stream for the Provincial Facebook page. The nativity play rehearsal was held on Zoom!

On the big day, the lorry and portable toilets arrived. Raymond and sons spent all day at the Showgrounds decking out the lorry with backdrops and straw bales and sorting out the electrics and lighting. A gazebo was erected to hold the tables where volunteers could pass out Christingle packs to the cars as they came in. A large, borrowed van brought over the Christingle packs and much of the other equipment.

The afternoon got colder and darker - would anyone come, and would it work?? Volunteers turned up as promised and set to work in the car park. The band turned up and started to play. Our only walkthrough rehearsal for the nativity play was held. The giant Christingle was set in place and the huge Moravian star started to glow in the darkness.

By four o'clock we were freezing cold but raring to go. People were welcomed to the Drive in by Br Livingstone Thompson. Br Jared led the prayers and readers read the Bible passages. Then came the nativity play, with Br Greg Cunningham as the innkeeper and Sr Lizzie Corsby the narrator who both made the play come alive. A Christingle talk was given by Br Mark Kernohan and as he talked the giant Christingle was put together on the stage. When it came to lighting the Christingle, people were asked to switch on their car lights and torches and the world seemed to light up. After prayers the District Chairman, Br David Johnston, thanked everyone and wished all safe home and a happy Christmas. A bucket collection was taken up as people left.

Of course that was not the end - everything had to be taken down and packed away in the cold. Much was brought back to Gracehill for further sorting. Borrowed items had to be returned and donated money had to be counted. The unused Christingle packs were sent back to congregations and were distributed to those who were unable to be with us. We were all frozen but happy and relieved by that stage.

The bucket collection was to be given to charity and a donation of £100 has been made to Radio Cracker and the remainder, £741, will be sent to the Hurricane Eta and Iota appeal. We were so grateful for the donations of money from individuals and congregations that enabled this huge venture to be put on. We know that over 100 cars came to the Drive in, over 300 Christingle packs were given out and there have been over 3,600 views of the Drive in Christingle on the Provincial Facebook page from folk across the Province and the Moravian Unity.

It was a huge amount of work, but the Irish District came together to put on some Christmas cheer at a dark time. Thank you to everyone who helped and particularly to Jared whose brain wave idea this was.

sarah groves 21Sr Sarah Groves
Minister at Gracehill Moravian Church

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