Niagara parish builds nativity float for Santa Claus parade

Published December 3, 2014



Parishioners from Grace Anglican Church in the Diocese of Niagara participate in the annual Santa Claus Parade in Flamborough, Ont. Photo: contributed.

The Rev. Sue-Ann Ward of Grace Anglican Church in Waterdown, Ont., wants to remind her community that Christmas isn’t really about Santa filling stockings or presents under the tree. “Christmas is about God coming into the world to be among us, to guide us, ultimately to sacrifice himself for us,” she said. And so Ward and a group of her parishioners created a nativity float for the local Santa Claus parade in Flamborough, Ont., which took place on Nov. 29.

“The community takes great pride in [the parade], and Grace Church is a very strong member of the community,” said Ward. The church’s float joined more than 60 others made by local businesses, air cadet squadrons, sports teams, arts groups, non-profit organizations and other churches.

Participating in the parade “is an example of the sort of community engagement and partnership that we’re trying to foster in all aspects of our ministry as a diocese,” said the Rev. Bill Mous, director of justice, community and global ministries in the Diocese of Niagara. “It’s also a way of inviting the wider community to come and see what is happening at Grace and delve deeper into the meaning of Christmas.”

A week before the parade, the float-makers gathered at parishioners Paul and Sally Bates’ farm to assemble and decorate the nativity float. Beforehand, the Bates had whitewashed their hay wagon to serve as the base of the float, and another parishioner, Eric Hallowell, had built a stable that fit perfectly in the wagon. The congregation used a crèche from previous years, and the Bates also donated the use of a truck to pull the float and a generator to power the Christmas lights.

“So often in our society, we’re segmented by age, but in church, we’ve got seniors working alongside little tykes,” said Ward. When making the float, a feisty octogenarian helped co-ordinate the lighting design, while a group of children, ranging from age six to 15, clambered around the wagon and put the decorations in place. “All of us, regardless of age, carry pieces of wisdom for our journey. By bringing people together who may not naturally associate, such wisdom can be shared amongst participants in creative and life-giving ways,” Mous said.

Once the parade kicked off at 6:30 p.m., 16 parishioners of all ages sang along to tunes from God Rocks! as well as to favourite carols. Lit up against the night, half the float was decorated as a manger with Mary, Joseph and two shepherds, while the other half featured a Christmas tree, stockings and youth group members dressed as Rudolph and Tigger. The float also had information about the church’s food bank, said Lyn Ansty, who was dressed as a shepherd, adding that Grace Church strives to be part of the local community in both happy and difficult times.

Since the parade occurred right before advent, Ward hopes that the nativity float will help remind her congregation and other Hamilton-area Christians about the meaning of Christmas during the often frenzied lead up to Dec. 25. “Over the next four weeks, we shouldn’t be focused on shopping and presents and parties, but if we’re going to parties, we should be celebrating what’s sacred, not what’s secular or commercial,” she said.

Sara Tatelman is an editorial intern at the Anglican Journal.

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