IN THE Keighley Airedale Centre, filled with shoppers just
before Christmas, the Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Jonathan
Pritchard, suddenly began to sing "O come, all ye faithful". Then
others gradually joined in, until more than 100 people were
singing. They then began "Silent Night", and Mary and Joseph
emerged from a nearby café carrying a real baby (their
four-month-old son, Daniel). This had been kept a secret from
everyone, including the flash-mobbers involved, who had initially
appeared to be shopping like everyone else, but had gathered in the
café area to sing carols. Passers-by stopped to watch, and joined
in the carols.
It had all been planned by the Revd Derek Walmsley, Vicar of St
Mark's, Utley, also in Bradford diocese. Many
churches around the town had been involved, and it had been
difficult communicating with so many people, including the manager
of the Airedale Centre, who had given permission, and yet keeping
it all a secret.
"The reaction of the public was amazing," Mr Walmsley says.
"There was a lovely atmosphere in the shopping centre, at a time
when many people are quite stressed. When Mary and Joseph brought
Jesus out, some people were in tears. His birth still has the power
to fill us with wonder and hope."
Mary and Joseph were played by Andy and Jody Webster. Jody says
that "Andy was getting cold feet the night before. It's not every
day you have to dress up and walk through a packed shopping centre
carrying Jesus. Afterwards, there were people queuing to get a
photo of us."