When your ministry is set in the woods, how do you celebrate Christmas together as a church community? Ruth Ward, Community Worker at Jacobs Well shares how they did it…

In spite of the weather, our Forest Church group still wanted our Christmas celebrations to be in the woods and so we decided on a trail amongst the trees. At least keeping moving would help us keep warm! As we thought about the Christmas story that we wanted to tell, the theme of journey came up again and again. After all, the characters from the Christmas story all went on some sort of physical journey to get somewhere, and they all went on some sort of spiritual journey where they learnt a bit more about God and about themselves. Perhaps that might be true for us too?

And so, a trail of stars was put up which needed to be followed to find characters from the Christmas story. At each station someone would read out a simple Bible reading relating to that character and there was an activity to do too.  It was great fun to pin the tail to the donkey at station 1! There were wondering questions to get people thinking about the characters especially in relation to journeys and linking to their own spiritual journey. As we approached station 3 it started to get dark, and torches were needed. This only added to the atmosphere of the gathering. However, the star at the end of the trail shone brightly and one little girl excitedly exclaimed “wow that star is shining brightly!”.

The fire also shone radiantly and kept us warm as well as the hot chocolate. After communion, candles were lit, and we stood in peaceful silence with gentle music in the background. We reflected on what we were grateful for from the year and prayed for situations and people.  

A wondering question from the gathering: The star guided the wise men – I wonder what guides you in life?

In a meeting with another organisation there was an idea that was sparked by a member of Jacobs Well.  This organisation was going to do hampers for local families in South Gloucestershire including families that had recently arrived from Afghanistan. We asked if we could do a hamper for a specific family with specific items to help them at this time.  After several layers of communication and many emails, we had a list! As well as Jacobs Well members contributing the toddler group which we are involved in were asked if they had any spare toys for specific ages of the children involved.  Donations came pouring in – there were some surprises including a mum who had only been a few times to the group who donated baby wash products as well as new toys.

There was quite a collection by the time it had been boxed up. However, as well as a family receiving a lovely gift and food hamper, it got the community workers who work for this other organisation thinking. It got them thinking about what they were doing and why they were doing it. Giving families specific items meant less waste and more enjoyment of the things which they received. Looks like I could be invited into a meeting to discuss how things could be done differently next year!

To find out more about the ministry at Jacobs Well read Story 96 on the Baptists Together website here.