This advent I have been surrounded by angels.
The Geelong City Ministers, an ecumenical grouping of Geelong churches, has been supporting an advent/nativity project for the last three years. It all started quite simply with a trail of knitted sheep around the shops in Pakington St in Newtown, engaging shop keepers, fibre artists (that’s knitters to you and me) and school children.
It had such energy and excitement around it that last year I was joined in my efforts by the recently arrived Rev Peter Gador Whyte, the Uniting Minister at Wesley City Church. This time, we focused on the three Kings, or Wise Guys, who spread their reach further into the city. The knitted chaps, about 70 of them, can be seen in the Angel shop at the moment. This treasure hunt to find the Wise Guys was complemented by a Nativity photo shoot, in which passers-by were encouraged to get dressed as Kings, angels, or shepherds and have a photo taken they could use on Christmas cards, and so on. That was also a success, so we decided to have another go. This time we would try to be incorporated into the Geelong Christmas Trail in some way.
By late January 2015, Peter and I were already planning and visioning a City Nativity project, this time with the theme of Angels in the City. We asked many groups of Men’s Sheds to make us wooden peg dolls that could be decorated into angels, and an amazing 400 20cm angels were sent out to be decorated by school children.
These magnificent creations are on display at the Angel Shop too. We had discussed with the council fabricating large plywood angels that would complement the Christmas Trees decorated by school children and displayed in the Mall outside Market Square on Little Malop St. All was going to plan, until the risk assessment team took a closer look at these large angels, and decreed that they posed too much of a risk to the public if they were to be displayed as free standing items. They are quite broad, and in windy Geelong it was probably a good call. However, it left the Geelong council and the city ministers team in a quandary.
Until someone had an idea to put them in a disused shop. Fantastic! The day was saved, and all we had to do, said the council, was to encourage families to visit the shop during the lead up to Christmas to decorate them. Wow! All we had to do!
Of course, we had to say ‘yes’ to this opportunity, to be a recognised presence of God working within the city of Geelong, to have a chance to tell as many people as we could the story of Christmas, to show that Christians could indeed venture out of their churches, and that they could engage with the general public in a positive and pastoral way. Yes, of course, we said Yes!
So we left the city council offices looking stunned – what had we just agreed to? I counted the commitment, and it came to 12 days. This seemed like a good biblical number, and allowed a catch phrase of 12 Days of Service to be spread and called for throughout the city churches.
So we asked for volunteers, and those modern day Angels appeared from all quarters, and all denominations. This parish was well represented by volunteers, and I am personally very grateful to you all for supporting this mad-cap scheme. And what do you know? We pulled it off!
There have been some beautiful moments, of volunteers pushing crying babies in their strollers to let exhausted mums focus on their older child, of tiny babies being placed in the Nativity scene manager for a photo, of team work from different families over many hours to complete the angels; of kind and gentle moments between volunteers and children whilst all their hands are busy creating.
God bless you and yours at this busy, busy time of year.
Keep safe and I pray that we can catch up over the many Christmas services in the parish this week.
Rev Elizabeth Breakey
Anglican Priest in Charge