Church gives relief from festive ‘hell’

A SHEFFIELD church is to hold a service for people “for whom Christmas is the worst time of the year”.

Against a background of commercial pressures and sky-high expectations for the time of year, Christ Church at Stannington hopes to get the true Christmas message across to those who are dreading the experience.

“The idea is to have a service for people for whom Christmas is pretty hellish,” said the vicar, the Rev Canon Philip West.

“Maybe they are bereaved or separated or divorced or they don’t have enough money. We want people to realise Christmas is for them.”

The Stannington church is renowned for its open-air re-enactments of the Easter story, which features a Crucifixion scene, and its open-air nativity, complete with real sheep, horses and a donkey, which will be staged on December 19.

The service with a difference will be held on Wednesday, December 21 – the longest day of the year – at 7pm.

Mr West, who will lead the service, said it will be an informal and gentle affair with readings and music.

“The church doesn’t want to be a killjoy and to stop people enjoying themselves. There is something lovely about a traditional Christmas. On the other hand, there are many people for whom Christmas is the worst time of the year. They can be in real mental or even physical pain. A lot of people can’t afford it.

“There are unrealistic expectations for a scintillating experience at Christmas but it can be devastating for some people.”

Numbers of couples looking for a divorce go up in the aftermath of Christmas.

The event was “to enable people to realise Christmas is for them. It is about God coming to people in difficulty and trouble and Jesus being born in a dreadful, poverty-stricken place. We are trying to get the real message of Christmas across.”

Mr West said the suggestion had been picked up from another church. “A number of church members are keen on the idea and we hope it will be a blessing to people who are in difficulties.”

The open-air nativity will start at 7pm on Monday, December 19 in the car park of the Peacock In in Stannington, moving on to the car parks of the Rose and Crown, the Crown and Glove and the Lomas Hall.

“We did start to wonder ‘Shall we do it?’” said Mr West. “It’s a lot of work. But people pull together and it is now quite simple to organise and we are already getting a lot of interest.”