A COSY living-room adorned with sofas, soft furnishings, toys, coffee mugs, twinkling lights, and a golden nativity scene has sprung up in Leicester Cathedral this Advent, courtesy of the John Lewis Partnership, to help visitors to celebrate the place of home at Christmas.
The Dean of Leicester, the Very Revd David Monteith, approached the city’s John Lewis department store to help strengthen ties with the business community, while also enlisting its resources to help tell the Christmas story in a new way.
He explained on Tuesday: “The cathedral decided to focus on the theme of ‘home’ in Advent and Christmas. Many people use John Lewis as a store to equip their houses in ways which help them to feel like home.
“The cathedral and John Lewis are trusted brands, and so share some common ground: John Lewis is the anchor in the local shopping centre and is used by people from all over the diocese. . . And our recent Economic Impact Survey shows that we contribute significantly to the local economy, as more people now visit the city in the light of the reburial of King Richard III in the cathedral.”
Amid the scene, a TV is playing a short film that features members of the cathedral community, who speak of their experiences of home at Christmas and throughout the year, in the cathedral and elsewhere. Visitors can also write notes about what home means to them, and hang them around the scene.
People have been both intrigued and “surprised or shocked” by the project, Dean Montieth said. “Many people expect Christians simply to condemn the commercialism of December. We, of course, want people to see more than that, but we want our city to thrive, and we want to engage people afresh at Christmas. Engagement leads to conversations, which lead to deeper exploration and, hopefully, a return to some of our cathedral services.”
The temporary multifaith night shelter and the care of refugees and asylum-seekers in the city is part of this engagement. Messages so far have included the words and phrases: “Security”; “Family”; “Not a place but a state of mind”; “Home should be for everyone”; and “Home is being in the presence of Jesus”.
No money has been exchanged for the project. The film was funded by the Friends of Leicester Cathedral, and John Lewis has lent its furniture and furnishings to the cathedral to create the living-room scene, all of which will be returned to the stores in January. A small cost was incurred by the Chapter to protect the cathedral floor underneath the display.
The branch manager at John Lewis, Leicester, Gary Rowntree, said: “Our visual-merchandising team took their inspiration from Scandinavia, starting with a structure that could be a house, barn, or stable. We wanted to create something natural and cosy, a home you might stumble across whilst taking a winter woodland walk.”
“The inspiration for the message tags came from the gesture of leaving messages to loved ones on padlocks attached to bridges. We are inviting visitors to attach tags to the sides of the house, which, in time, will gradually create the walls, helping to build a home with messages and memories of love and joy, and, in turn, helping to bring our community closer together.”
Watch the short film here