The first of three special events for children during Advent was held at Croydon Minster on Monday.
“Messy Minster” told children of the mission of St Nicholas, or Santa Claus, whose saints day is this Thursday. Nicholas is also a patron saint of children.
Bishop Nicholas ran a 4th century pilot scheme, copied by later Father Christmases, to put presents in the family stockings. Anonymously, Nicholas secretly put purses of gold coins in the household of a man who had fallen on hard times during a recession and could not care for the future of his three daughters.
The children attending Monday’s event at the Minster listened rapt to the story told by a female member of the Minster’s clergy, with the props of three stockings hung in front of the altar and bunches of chocolate gold coins placed in them by Bishop Nicholas.
As always these stories have modern resonances. The gold is given by Nicholas to avoid the daughters being trafficked into the sex industry, a story of relevance when the Croydon Campaign Against Trafficking – CCAT – campaigns against trafficking locally.
A further link to modern times came as the female curate told the story of Nicholas’ work as a bishop and donned a bishop’s mitre to tell the story to the children. Both boys and girls were wearing paper mitres they had made earlier. The girls were not advised that, in the Church of England at the moment, playing at being a bishop was as far as their aspirations can go.
There was a smattering of polite supportive applause from mothers present when the lady curate donned the mitre, indicating some support for women bishops among Croydon’s laity.
And finally, there was a St Nicholas prayer, relevant when an autumn statement is being made in the House of Commons,
“Help us to follow the example of Nicholas,
who loved the poor, the weak and the young”
Croydon Minster’s other special Christmas events for children include a Toy Service at 10am this Sunday and the beautiful crib service, where all children can perform extempore in the nativity tableau at 5pm on Christmas Eve.
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