A caroling Christmas hayride, designed to bring music to people who are homebound or have difficulty getting out, has become a tradition for Immanuel Christian Reformed Church in Ripon, Calif. Dec. 16 was to be their third annual event, but it was canceled because of rain. In 2016, hoping for 25 participants, the staff assembled two trailers with hay bales for seating. They were happily surprised with more than 50 eager carolers.
Immanuel found a third trailer for 2017, exceeding expectations again with 80 participants. For the hayride’s second year, each trailer took its own hour-long route—one focused nearly entirely on Bethany Home, the community’s residence for seniors. Hay bales were packed with everyone from infants to 80-year-olds. Neighborhood girls who participate in the church’s GEMS club and their parents joined congregants in the festivities. After caroling, the church offered a social gathering including hot cider and oilebollen, the Dutch treat of fried dough and sprinkled sugar.
Melissa Viss, the church’s worship director, spearheads the event. Ten to 15 other volunteers drive, navigate, lend trailers, and coordinate the social activities. Viss considers the event “an alternative worship service” and plans mostly sacred carols, though a chorus of Jingle Bells may be thrown in for good measure. As the choirs are only assembled minutes before boarding the trailers, there may be a few bumps along the road, but Viss said that their “enthusiasm seems to cover whatever mistakes might happen.”