Connecting with Christmas in Sunderland city centre
Schoolchildren, community choirs and church members came together for Sunderland's third annual Ha'way in a Manger Christmas celebration.
The event, in Sunderland’s Park Lane Shopping Village, saw traditional carols from local pupils and choirs, craft prayer activities and drumming displays to give offered shoppers a memorable Mackem take on the meaning of Christmas.
Run entirely by volunteers from Connect Network -a Wearside network bringing Christians, Churches and communities together to help transform the city – the Christmas celebration set out to share joy through faith-based activities for all the family.
Connect Network invited shoppers to take a few minutes out of their busy day to relax, reflect and appreciate the special reason behind the season. One hundred children and community members took part, including Grindon Hall Christian School performing Bethlehem the Musical, singing from New Penshaw Academy, and Northern Saints School doing African drumming.
Prayer stations provided space for quiet contemplation, and volunteers were on hand for anyone needing spiritual support on the day.
Deb Fozzard, Director of Connect Network said: “I was genuinely amazed and thrilled to see so many churches taking time out of their very busy Christmas period to come and be together and serve the city.
“It was clear that everyone taking part was enjoying working together to bless the city of Sunderland and share the good news of Christmas. We have real hope for our city and are here to support and encourage the people of Sunderland anyway we can.”
Connect Network was approached by Sunderland Business Improvement District to deliver the event as part of its five-week festive celebration in the city, which launched with the switch-on of the Christmas lights and runs until Christmas Eve.
Kirsty Currie, from Sunderland BID, said: “Ha’Way in a Manger brought a fun packed programme of activities to Park Lane which really demonstrated the meaning of Community Spirit.
“It was wonderful to see the area busy and being enjoyed by so many, whether there for the full afternoon or just passing through. There were not many people who didn’t stop and ask what was happening.
“We really hope activity such as our Community Spirit programme this Christmas will remind people the city has lots to offer. With performances continuing until 24 December there is still time for people to enjoy the programme we have on offer.”
Christmas activities continue in Park Lane Shopping Village until Christmas Eve, to find a local Christmas church service near you visit www.connectnetwork.uk/christmas.