Advent Day 2: A Christmas service in a surprising place

This Advent a Church of Scotland minister will be out in the community giving a Christmas service with a difference at his local supermarket.

Reverend Barry Hughes standing in front of his local Sainsbury's wearing a reindeer jumper
Mr Hughes is full of praise for what has been an extremely successful partnership between St Mark's and Sainsbury's, saying it has gone "from strength to strength".

Rev Barry Hughes, who since taking up a call to ministry last year has been based at St Mark's Church of Scotland in Raploch, will be holding a festive celebration in the Sainsbury's opposite his church.

The event is part of a year round initiative which takes place every two weeks in the shop's staff training room and is attended by around 25 people each week, often with their families.

Describing the special service as "similar to Messy Church", he explained how he came to be involved with the supermarket.

"It goes back to my predecessor who started St Mark's @ Sainsbury's a few years ago", he said.

"It's on a Wednesday every other week at tea-time - it's part of the attraction to it - and each service is based around a bible story.

"We'll start with an all age song and there will be a craft activity and a game.

"We finish with a reflection pulling the points together before we have a final song and say grace."

After the service, those attending are able to eat dinner together in the shop's restaurant, the costs of which are covered by the church.

"Before we go in everyone orders their food and when we go back the food is waiting for us.

"For me there is something special sharing fellowship over a meal", Mr Hughes said.

For what will be the final meeting at Sainsbury's of the year there will be carols and activities themed around journeying with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.

Mr Hughes sees it as a way to connect with those who may not feel that traditional church is for them.

"Earlier this year I baptised a mother and daughter, and their initial connection was at St Marks @ Sainsbury's", he said.

"We don't regard it as an add on - it's something integral to what we do.

"We have a couple of families who don't come on a Sunday and some who come to both."

Mr Hughes is also full of praise for what has been an extremely successful partnership between St Mark's and Sainsbury's, saying it has gone "from strength to strength".

The supermarket is also supporting the brand new Cubs and Beaver groups which Mr Barry has started locally by providing some Christmas treats for those who attend.

Despite the unusual setting of the fortnightly meeting, Mr Hughes is keen to see it as an extention of his Sunday congregation.

"St Mark's @ Sainsbury's is a different way of doing church in a different place but it's a big part of our Christian outreach in Raploch," he said.

"We celebrate the love of Christ at all of our St Mark's @ Sainsbury's services and are especially excited to share the message of Joy To the World with all who will be with us on 4th December and throughout the Christmas season."

Join Rev Barry Hughes in the Stirling Sainsbury's in Raploch on Wednesday 4 December at 5.30pm.

St Mark's Stirling is a Church of Scotland Priority Area.

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