The Trees of St. Mary's
Thursday and Friday featured long technical sessions in the London area (Horsham), but one of my colleagues there had planned a treat afterward. We took a half-hour trip to visit his church, St. Mary's Church in Goring-by-Sea, where they were conducting a special event, their second annual Community Christmas Tree Festival -- and I have to say, I have never before seen its like.
The church was filled with Christmas trees! 61 of them, to be exact, each one named, erected by and representing a church group, local business, club or association. The decorations were as varied as the sponsors, sometimes featuring photos of the group members, sometimes artwork, sometime other things. The tree named "Bee-Fit Children's Fitness" (tree #24), sponsored by an organization called "Bee-Fit," was filled with paper bees crayoned by children, for example. A rather amusing tree was named "Why We Need a Parish Office" (#60), by St. Mary's Parish Office, and filled with reminders of all the many activities of the parish office. Some were simply fitting, such as "London Bells" (tree #1) by St. Mary's Bellringers. One interesting tree was the "Poverty Tree" (tree #4): stark and bare, with the only decoration (that I remember) being an iron chain wound through it.
Just the names of many of the trees tell stories: "Singing Bows" (tree #20, Sephton Music Group), "The Nativity" (tree #29, St. Mary's Clergy, placed in the Sanctuary), "Goring Past and Present" (tree #35, Goring Residents' Association), "St. Mary's Dustbusters" (tree #52, St. Mary's Cleaning Group; I imagine they'll have some extra work when this display comes down!), "Tree of Dreams," "Freedom with Mobility," "In the Bleak Mid-Winter, "Praying Around the World" and so on.
Some businesses were represented, such as "Guy Wakeford Plumbing" (tree #46, no prizes for guessing the sponsor though I seem to recall it being filled with little card ornaments with plumber's wrenches on them), and the amusingly named "Seasons Meatings" (tree #57, John May Butcher).
Of course, there is a purpose to all of this, as noted in the guide. Not only is it "a window on our community here in Goring," but it is a benefit for The Chestnut Tree House Appeal, the only children's hospice in Sussex, which does not charge families for care and which receives no government funding, so it is completely dependent upon private support.