The miracle of Christmas at Christchurch, Borrowdale

Further to Bishop Bakare’s Epiphany message, the following is taken from the Christchurch Borrowdale church magazine January issue.
Acknowledgements go to DT who wrote it.


On the Sunday before Christmas the situation in our church reached what must surely be its lowest point. A full congregation awaited the arrival of our Bishop to celebrate Holy Communion. Instead we saw Canon Harry Rinashe pacing to and fro in the chancel and shouting that he would not allow Bishop Bakare to come to “his” church. The congregation called for our Bishop. The “heavies”, of whom we had become increasingly aware, advanced to the chancel steps where our Church Wardens and our Bishop had by now assembled. Noise and confusion predominated as the Bishop and Mato (our Warden) were pushed, not to say manhandled, out of the church followed by the mass of the congregation and choirs. The very thought of High Mass on Christmas Day seemed like a pipe dream, followed by a nightmare.

Two days later the miracle happened. Cars streamed into the car park of the Heritage School, their occupants streamed into the school hall, the choirs took their places, the magnificent flower arrangements, seized by their arranger from their original place in the church, flanked the dais; hymn sheets, newly photocopied were handed out and the service books, unearthed from goodness knows where, were distributed; the chairs, set out in serried ranks, were filled with expectant people, though expectant of what we were not sure. There was Mrs Bakare, hardly likely to come without her husband, so …. ? The table on the dais was arranged as for a communion service but we hardly felt we deserved to be honoured with the Bishop as celebrant.

There was some delay as more chairs were brought in, benches appeared; people perched on window ledges, oozed out of the door at the back of the hall and kept appearing in the entrance; it was reminiscent of Christmas services of the past when churches were filled to overflowing. At last, only just over 10 minutes late, the opening hymn was announced, the processional cross (borrowed) was carried in, followed by the acolytes, the sub deacons, the assistant priest (Chris Tapera) and, yes, indeed!, the Bishop!

There was no space in the acting chancel for anyone besides the Bishop and his assistant priest, the rest of the procession grouping itself around the dais and fulfilling its various roles effectively despite cramped conditions. The Bishop began his sermon by quoting from the PPentecost reading Acts 2 vs 15). “I am not drunk”, he said, “for it is very early in the morning”, but he felt he might stagger on the slightly unstable footing.

He drew many parallels between our circumstances at Christchurch and those surrounding the birth of Jesus; the disturbed social and political scene, the hostile and sometimes satanic environment, and the fact, that we were not ‘at home’ but in an unfamiliar though hospitable place. “This” he said, “is your manger”, the place where a new birth could be celebrated – as, indeed, it was.

The spirit of harmony and unity became more and more pervasive as the service continued. The music of the English choir, the chanting of the Shona choir, the singing of the congregation, the way every one of the more than two hundred communicants managed to get to the (imaginary) communion rail and back through a congested though orderly room; all these things contributed to the inspiration of the occasion. And when everyone had greeted the Bishop as the room cleared and had chatted with family and friends outside, this inspiration is what we shall all most clearly remember of the Christmas day service. This was our manger from which the child must grow to manhood. The entire service, even including the children outside enjoying the school’s recreational facilities, was an illustration of the miracle which can be achieved where a great many people combine their differing skills and resources towards one purpose.”



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