Children, visitors, church members, and neighbors met under open December skies to sing carols, share Luke’s account of the nativity, and hear children’s Christmas memories. It was Christmas in The Village in Thorold, Ontario, hosted by The Village Church, a Christian Reformed Church plant.
“Simplifying it is what Christmas is all about,” Michael Collins told those gathered in the parking lot of the town’s community center. “It was a simple birth and we simply want to celebrate, so thanks for joining us.” Collins is the pastor at The Village church.
The Village is “more about meeting people than entertaining people,” according to its website. For the past several years, the leadership team has experimented with many types of Christmas gatherings to attract visitors and make new encounters. After the wet, slushy weather of last year’s Christmas park-side service, this year’s celebration was a combination of an outdoor afternoon carol sing and indoor activities and refreshments.
“Being at the Community Centre feels right,” said the church’s worship coordinator and event organizer Erin Knight. “We felt combining indoor and outdoor gave us more flexibility if the weather was to go wrong, and we are also a church that wants to be accessible to the community.”
For worship leader Matt Lensink, playing outdoors offers something different and is exciting because of the possibility of sharing with someone new to the church. “When you have an outdoor carol sing, it’s kind of harmless. People feel welcome to come,” he said.
Melissa Sparks, co-leader of the church’s children’s ministry, prepared the young participants to share special memories of what Christmas means to them. Eight children held enlarged photographs of moments from Santa’s footprints at the hearth to birthday cake for Jesus, each overlaid with a letter J-E-S-U-S. “We wanted to gather the memories from very different households and show they are all under the banner of Jesus,” Sparks said.