AT ST JOHN's, Greengates, a parish to the north-east of
Bradford, they did not bring a donkey into a
service, but took the carol service to a real stable. The Curate
with responsibility, the Revd Tracy Milne, called it "a carol
service with a twist", and said that it had been the children's
idea to move it to the stable on a neighbouring farm, owned by
their churchwarden, Muriel Gabbutt, and to use the farm's Shetland
pony to impersonate the traditional donkey.
Not many people know that there is a farm so close to the busy
Bradford Road, Ms Milne says, but they were expecting such a crowd
at the service two days before Christmas (and doubtless in view of
this winter's weather) that they were putting up a marquee as
Ms Milne says that she likes walking round the parish chatting
to people, and drawing the community together as much as possible.
"We focus on the children, with friendly and interactive services,
but, when the parents come with them, they are amazed to discover
that the church is relevant and appropriate for them.
"As well as traditional services, we have a café church, when we
sit round with bacon butties, decent coffee, and the Sunday
newspapers. We read the papers and swap them around, and then pray
about some of the things they bring up." They have WOW (Women of
Worth) evenings for women, and a Tuesday event for children, when
they make their own props and become part of the action of the
story that they are telling. "It's great to see how ready people
are to get involved," Ms Milne says. "We've put up banners on the
railway bridge, and the hairdresser's was keen to display the
They had a toy service in the middle of December, when more than
60 presents were given for vulnerable members of the community,
and, on Christmas Eve, their communion service started at 9 p.m.,
"to coincide with midnight in Bethlehem". And the Christmas Day
family service, she says, is "where I get to play with all the
children's presents, and they get to eat my chocolate".