By Susan Gately - 04 December, 2015
A creative initiative based around trees has succeeded in bringing virtually all the stakeholders in a local community in Dublin together around the Christmas story.
The Christmas Tree Festival at St James’ Church in Crinken, Shankill, begins today and runs until Sunday 6 December.
Inside the 175-year-old Church of Ireland parish church, on boards over the pews, stand forty-nine trees each of which represents a verse from the Bible, telling the Christmas story in a “unique and enchanting way”.
Each tree has been decorated by a local group – a school, a community or a business.
From six foot natural fir trees, to sculpted ones made from books, tyres and other materials, each tree tells, with a bible verse, a part of the Christmas story.
The ‘Journey to Bethlehem’ festival was the brainchild of Rev Trevor Stevenson, rector at the church who visited a couple of Christmas tree festivals in Banbridge and Castleblayney last year. Supported by a number of parishioners, he has now brought the idea to Shankill.
The festival is almost a year in the making, though the real work began in September when a core group began approaching local organisations and charities to invite them to be part of it. “Very few said no,” Rev Stevenson told CatholicIreland.net
Walking into the church now is “like walking into a forest” he says.
An ‘upside down’ tree represents God’s love coming down on earth; a tree representing the homeless lies in a sleeping bag outside the church. “It is numbered nought. It is not even in the catalogue,” he said.
The project is a “whole community” thing, involving Shankill’s four schools (three of which are Catholic), the local Catholic and Church of Ireland parishes, community groups like the Gardaí, ICA, Shankill Refugee Group, SVP, Tidy Towns, First Aid and Nursing homes and local businesses (pubs, shops and retail).
“One lady said to me, ‘We’ve been trying to get the whole community together for years and you’ve done it in one fell swoop!’” Rev Stevenson told CatholicIreland.net
The trees include a Shepherd’s Tree, the Journey Tree, the Good News Tree and the Angel’s Tree. Some are real, others sculpted.
Castle Garage in Bray built a tree of Tyres – the Journey Tree. The phrase represented is “The shepherds said to each other, ‘let us go to Bethlehem to see this thing that has happened’” (Luke 2 verse 15).
Underneath the phrase is the comment: “The shepherds journey would be different today… ‘Let’s go check this out for ourselves – jump in, it won’t take long!’ A much easier trip by car than by foot.”
The Garda Station’s tree portrays justice. A music tree is made from Eukeleles and a bell tree (“Ding Dong, verily on high”) is sculpted by a local artist Des Fox and made of recycled vacuums.
“It is modern art, you need to use your head a bit to get the connection between the hoovers and the bells,” comments Rev Stevenson.
The balloon company has made a tree out of balloons to illustrate the phrase “And when they saw the star they were overjoyed.”
Rev Stevenson is delighted at the reaction to the festival.
Two nights this week the church was filled with people from different community groups, all working on their trees.
Christmas is all about “getting to know different communities and building up relationships and that is what this is all about,” he said.
The Christmas Tree Festival takes place at St James’ Church, Crinken, Old Bray Road, Shankill, Co Dublin today from 10am to 9pm tomorrow; Saturday 5 December from 10am to 9pm; and on Sunday 6 December 2pm-8pm.
Admission is free but donations are welcome to the Store House, and towards the cost of creating the festival. Teas and coffees will be available.