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Flash carols

03 January 2014

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."

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