In modern, 21st-century Guyra, you’ll see a group of first-century Judaean shepherds, angels, and the odd barn animal outside the supermarket, every Saturday until Christmas.
Guyra’s Church of Freedom is bringing Bethlehem to Bradley Street: a fluid Nativity scene, with singing.
“We wanted to bear service in the community – to bring Christmas cheer into the Bradley Street area, and be a reminder of what Christmas is about,” organizer Sharon Ritchie said.
She is pastor at the church with her husband Jeff.
At 10am, each Saturday until December 22, Sharon and congregation members will dress up in Biblical costumes, and sing carols in the street, to bring a different feel to the town before Christmas.
“It was a great time to go back to the grassroots of Christmas!” Sharon said.
“As a Christian, Christmas means that I’m remembering the birth of Jesus, and not letting shopping and other things distract us from what we’re doing, and why we’re celebrating.”
About 15 members of the church gathered outside the supermarket on Saturday, December 1.
They ranged from 80 to a mere four months: young Abel Ritchie as the baby Jesus in the manger, making, grandmother Sharon said, his first street ministry.
“We were near the supermarket, so that everyone could partake and enjoy the experience,” Sharon said.
“People just enjoyed walking past, stopping and listening. At that first one, people didn’t really come and join in, but they certainly smiled, and enjoyed what we were doing there.”
The group sang carols for about 40 minutes, including favourites Away in a Manger, Silent Night, Little Town of Bethlehem, and Hark the Herald Angels Sing.
Sharon, dressed in a long gold gown, led the singing, and played guitar. Others wore purple, yellow, and white robes.
“There were different elements of colour and shine in among the shepherds and the women, who dressed up in costume of that day,” Sharon said. “It was just really beautiful.
“It made us smile to see each other dressed up as well. The internal joy was there with us, which then came out when we were singing the carols.”
Dan McGinty played bass, and Darrell Taylor harmonica.
The Church of Freedom comes under the Full Gospel Churches of Australia, a nationwide network of autonomous Pentecostal ministries, pastors, and churches.