Community rallies round church to celebrate the real spirit of Christmas

Millhouses Methodist Church Christmas Tree Festival: Viv Esberger (right) and Nicola Ward of the Pet Company adjusting Nicola's tree
Millhouses Methodist Church Christmas Tree Festival: Viv Esberger (right) and Nicola Ward of the Pet Company adjusting Nicola's tree

The cafes, banks and pubs of Millhouses are joining local shops and community groups to celebrate Christmas at their local Methodist church.

It’s the tenth year of the Millhouses Methodist Church Christmas Tree Festival, and co-organiser Viv Esberger said it was the biggest yet, with 30 businesses and groups taking part.

“Last year we had a pantomime theme but this year it’s Christmas carols. But we also suggest the trees include something about the decorator’s own business.”

So there were zumba, knitting and pet-related decorations, and Millhouses Park post office had elevated a Postman Pat toy to star status at the top of his glittering domain.

Planning for the festival begins in the summer, with letters to businesses and groups within about a mile of the church, on Millhouses Lane. “We do it really to try and involve the local community within the church,” said Viv. “It’s a focal point with so many groups using the premises but they don’t always come into the church itself, so we hope that the festival will help more people to feel comfortable coming in.”

In turn, the church and its members like to support the local businesses.

“The festival is about celebrating the community. We do value the local shops - they support us so we support them by trying to encourage people to use local businesses like the coffee shops and pubs and the post office.”

At present, many shops in the area appeared to be “doing really well”, added Viv.

The show is open at the church every weekend, with the final advent run open every day from December 20 to 24. Entrance is free, and any donations go towards the Christmas light electricity bill and charities including the Archer Project and St Wilfrid’s Centre, which work with the homeless.

Local schools take part, with Dobcroft Junior and Infant and Holt House schools all providing a decorated tree. Nearly 300 children of all ethnicities and religions from the schools also visit the church as part of the festival, to see the trees and learn more about the Christmas story.

“Children love to see all the trees together,” said Viv. “And there’s so much commercialism nowadays, we like to share the message of what Christmas is all about, it’s not just shopping and commercial, it’s Jesus’ birthday.”

More than 20 groups use the church’s rooms, taking part in everything from local and military history to tootle tots, from ballroom dancing and Gilbert and Sullivan to weight watchers.

“It’s a beautiful building. And we want to bring more people in to see it.”