"Messy Christmas!" from all at Bardney

Have yourself a very Messy Christmas!

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Advent and Christmas are always wonderful opportunities to talk about our Christian faith. We are always delighted to share how our Rural Ministries partner churches do this in different and unique ways. The Bardney Community Church in Lincolnshire retells the nativity story outside, and in doing so, include the people of the village, ecumenical partners and the local council. Read on to get the detail…

It’s a bit like a cross between a pantomime and a treasure hunt when we go looking for baby Jesus in Bardney every Christmas. We call it the ‘Messy nativity’, and whilst it is part of our Messy Church cycle, it is manifestly messy in other ways:

Well… there is the issue of the fresh donkey offering on the church path just as the families emerge from the Church door (the said beast also holding up traffic on the main street by refusing to move mid-crossing, then bolting down Church Lane, closely followed by the Donkey handler with blood dripping from his wrist after attempting restraint with the lead, to be eventually headed off by a Palestinian-looking shepherd). We did do a risk assessment, but this one (as well as the Donkey) got past us…

And there is the recurrent problem of the Parish Council getting their timing slightly out, which has left us with 100 plus people in the cold on the village green singing ‘Away in a manger’ and awaiting the switching on of the Christmas tree lights, trying not to notice Roman soldiers, Palestinian-looking shepherds and odd-looking Kings sneak past. Then the real shepherd wasn’t pleased because his rare and pregnant sheep were corralled for too long (an extra hour) without food and he had to be placated with two bottles of red instead of the usual thank you gift of one at Yuletide. Mind you, that was before he gave a visiting nun a ride on his quad bike on the farm track to the Abbey. Very decent of him and showed he had forgiven us!

Oh yes – and then there was the mess of trying to rescue the script when the landlord of the Inn (one of the local pubs) went off-piste with his lines and started making non-PC jokes. Oh, and last year, our (avowedly better behaved) Donkey threatened to ruin carefully built relationships by following everyone in through the back door of the pub and out of the front past the bar. Not approved (but fortunately no offerings left!)

Fortunately, the Choir of Angels at the Methodist Chapel generally goes well, except we can’t get everybody in. No room at….

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Last year, we had the village school Headmaster drafted in as a Roman soldier – taking a census with a mate around a brazier outside St Francis’ church – which was fine until little Jonny noticed who the soldier was and was struck dumb (if only he had been!) by never having seen the head teacher’s knees before.

But it all sorts out when 100+ people (half of whom are children) find a real baby Jesus and his mum with Joseph (plus angels, shepherds, kings, Roman soldiers – and the beloved Donkey) – in an old, hushed, straw-strewn stable (with a 19th-century brick manger) then cram into our converted barn for messy tea – which it is – ‘messy’, that is! Then, Christmas has really started in the village...