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Welcome to my crib: A tour of the Nativity displays in this year’s Bishop’s Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival





A king for baby Jesus, a Queen for the Angel, knights nibbling at the straw in the manger and pawns for onlookers made up the chess club’s bid for best Nativity scene in Bishop’s Stortford Methodist Church’s Crib Festival, writes Ella Mann.

Victory had not been claimed just yet, however. Competition was fierce from across the board: hand-made glass designs, knitted figurines and sculpted pottery and surprise boxes filled the South Street church.

Minister the Rev Gill Hulme explained how the festival added a competitive slant this year. “We’ve been running since 2017, but this year is the first we’ve added a competition where people can vote for the best crib,” she told the Indie.

The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince

There was also a quiz for children which they could enter and submit to win a box of chocolates, and leaflets displaying the ‘Out of the Ordinary’ theme of the Church’s Christmas services. “It’s about seeing the divine in the everyday,” Gill explained.

While giving community groups, clubs and businesses the opportunity to advertise themselves, the crib festival – held on Friday and Saturday (December 8-9) – seemed first and foremost about creativity.

There remained a place for Sally and Jim’s traditional Nativity set, but more eye-catching cribs had a somewhat avant-garde twist. An interior-illuminated pottery bowl by the Home Farm Trust was one example, as well as a rock scene Nativity by the Bishop’s Stortford Band and a sustainable recycled-yarn Nativity scene by the Craft and Chat group that meets there two Tuesdays a month.

Methodist Church minister the Rev Gill Hulme with a ceramic Nativity created by members of HFT, formerly the Home Farm Trust. Pic: Vikki Lince
Methodist Church minister the Rev Gill Hulme with a ceramic Nativity created by members of HFT, formerly the Home Farm Trust. Pic: Vikki Lince

Gill noted that one had even gone political. An olive wood Nativity set by Hadeel was accompanied by a poster suggesting that instead of the traditional carol, people should sing ‘O Troubled Town of Bethlehem.’ The opportunity for activism in the Christmas festival had not been missed.

Other contributors included Knit and Knatter (who meet alternate Tuesdays to Craft and Chat) – whose projects include making blanket squares for an African school and scarves and gloves for Christmas boxes – Bishop’s Stortford Food Bank and the Herts & Essex Border branch of the National Trust.

There were also heartwarming scenes. Gill’s own crib invited people to write the names of loved ones they had lost on beautiful painted stones to make a path to a cradle. The scene was part of an effort to include those who find the jollity of Christmas hard. They can also find solace in the ‘Blue Christmas Service’ which will be held by Gill on Sunday (December 17).

The sheer variety and turnout of the church’s crib festival is a testament to the community hub that Gill and Lynn Grasemann, the church administrator, have created.

The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince

The Oasis Lounge Cafe, which offers tea or coffee to anyone who wants a chat, is host to Home Instead’s ‘Care and Companionship cafe’ on Thursday afternoons and the charity Cards for Bravery, set up by former Indies Community Award winner Katie Callaghan, which earlier this year had David Walliams as a guest for BBC TV’s The One Show.

The nativity scenes depicted in each of the 33 cribs were not just contributions in a craft competition or a creative advertisement. They represented the church’s community reach beyond political and generational barriers, and the power of a church festival to still bring a locality together.

As for the chess club, it triumphed in the ‘most unsual crib’ category and was also declared joint winner of the ‘favourite’ vote alongside Home Instead’s effort.

Bishop's Stortford mayor Cllr Richard Townsend with the smallest crib on display. Pic: Vikki Lince
Bishop's Stortford mayor Cllr Richard Townsend with the smallest crib on display. Pic: Vikki Lince

Ella Mann, from Wickford, Essex, is a third-year history student at Downing College, Cambridge, who is on a week’s work experience with the Indie.

The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Knit and Natter Group’s crib. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Knit and Natter Group’s crib. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop’s Stortford Band’s crib. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop’s Stortford Band’s crib. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
This crib was made and painted by Methodist minister the Rev Gill Hulme. Pic: Vikki Lince
This crib was made and painted by Methodist minister the Rev Gill Hulme. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
The Bishop's Stortford Methodist Church Crib Festival featured Nativity scenes created by various local community groups. Pic: Vikki Lince
O Troubled Town of Bethlehem: A particularly poignant crib scene, given the Israel-Gaza war. Pic: Vikki Lince
O Troubled Town of Bethlehem: A particularly poignant crib scene, given the Israel-Gaza war. Pic: Vikki Lince

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