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No lowing cattle, but lots of joyful song at Dales auction mart carol service

First published on: 19th December 2023

Bishop Anna has enjoyed her first ever carol service in a livestock auction mart and declared it the perfect venue for such a joyful community celebration.

Reflecting on her visit with the auction mart’s chaplain Revd Chris Lawton, The Rt Revd Anna Eltringham, Bishop of Ripon said:

“Unbelievable as it may sound, an auction mart is almost purpose built to act as a church if required. The auctioneer’s rostrum becomes the lectern or pulpit.  The sales ring was perfect for the Leyburn band and the tiered seating was great for the congregation.

“But we must not detract from the incredible place the mart is for the business of farming and the community which surrounds it.  After singing carols with gusto and hearing the Christmas story once more, we learnt from the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institute, (a charity that helps farming families in any kind of need), how important the mart is simply as a place for those who farm to connect and talk and support one another.  Farming is relentless hard graft and can be quite isolating in the dales or on the moors, so being with those who ‘get it’ can be a life-line.

"It was also great to see Revd Chris Lawton in action too.  Revd Chris is a nearby vicar for a group of churches in Lower Wensleydale.  But he is also a Chaplain to the Mart and has become one of the Mart’s community too, regularly seen in his flat cap and steel-toe-capped boots. 

"He led the service beautifully and there was a great sense of prayerful reverence in amongst the joyous celebration.

"For me it brought Christmas alive once more.  Here we were gathered in community, worshipping the Christ child, in a barn, just as Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the magi did over 2000 years ago.  At Christmas, the eternal message never changes. God enters into our messiness and struggles, as someone just like us, as a human being, Jesus Christ.  As he grows from child to man, he experiences loneliness, fear, rage, joy and celebration but also the deep grief of losing one he loves.  Towards the end, he even questions if God is with him at all.  And so this day he struggles and celebrates with us by his spirit and in the life of the communities we inhabit.  But he does more than just ‘get it’.  He brings God into everything too.  A God who shines a light to guide us in the darkness and who can begin to help us and save us from our troubles.

"The Auction Mart Carol Service shows us that Jesus can be worshipped anywhere and is with us everywhere.  Of course, your local parish priest will hope you chose to come to a special service in church this Christmas and find Jesus there.  But whether you do or you don’t, God comes to us in Jesus, wherever and whoever we are.” 

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