Walking into Stokesley Methodist Church on Sunday 3 December I was surprised by the number of sheep that had flocked inside. They were everywhere!
In the welcome area, there were sheep assisting the door stewards in handing out hymn books and notice sheets.
Going into the church, there was a table of sheep related gifts and goodies guarded by sheep. I was told that these were leftovers from the coffee morning on Saturday.
At the front of the church, watched over by shepherds, were thirty-four sheep ready to set off on their journeys round the shops and small business along the High Street.
As I took my seat, I noticed that there was something else out of the ordinary: a shopping trolley covered with tinsel.
The service started with the lighting of the first candle on the Advent wreath. Then during the second hymn, the trolley was pushed around the church collecting donations for the Foodbank. Fortunately, I had come prepared and so, it seemed, had a lot of other people. The trolley was overflowing by the time it reached the front. "We need a bigger trolley... or two!" I heard someone comment.
The sheep were not left out of the service. An unnamed sheep became the focus point for Rev Andrew Robinson's sermon. There were references to sheep in the songs, including 'The Lord's my shepherd'. The final song 'Where can we find you...' included the line: 'go where my sheep are rejected and lost'. Fitting words for the thirty-four named sheep that were being blessed ready to go out into Stokesley.
The Sheep Trail runs from Tues 5 Dec until Thurs 21 Dec. All are invited to search for the sheep and find their names. Forms are available at Church or from Browns Newsagents, East End, and the Newcastle Building Society. The results will be announced at Celebration Service at Stokesley Methodist Church on Christmas Day at 10am.