SHOPPERS in search of the true meaning of Christmas have had their prayers answered.
A makeshift ‘church’ has opened its doors at the heart of the King Street shopping thoroughfare in South Shields.
Volunteers from West Harton Methodist Church have moved into the former Yorkshire Linen premises for a six-week residency.
The venue is offering a place for prayer, Christmas crafts, advice and solace or just a chat over a cuppa.
Most of all the aim is to promote the real meaning of Christmas by supporting a national campaign that is promoting the simple message – ‘Christmas starts with Christ’.
Anyone visiting the street’s new place of worship will be invited to write a prayer on a label and place it on a Christmas tree.
Carol singing and possibly a Christingle service at the outlet are also planned.
The venture follows a successful six-week stopover by the church volunteers at the same outlet over Easter this year.
Angela Lishman, senior steward at West Harton Methodist Church, said: “We have just a short-term, six week lease and the council has done us a good deal on our business rates.
“We were here for two weeks before Easter and six weeks in total and we used up 1,200 paper cups, so we must have had a good number through the door.
“In April it was bringing the church to the people and the message of Easter, and this time it’s bringing the real meaning of Christmas to the people.
“Last time most people just came in for a cup of tea and a chat and they talked about their problems and about their pasts, they prayed and wrote prayers and we had lots of children in for the craft table.
“We’re just here for people who want to come in and take the weight off their feet.
“In the town centre there is only St Hilda’s and the People’s Mission - most of the churches are outside of the centre.
“I find people who don’t go to church find the church daunting, but they are happy to come in here.
“We hope to do some carol singing at some stage and we are asking people to come in and write a prayer on a luggage label and hang it on our Christmas tree, then we will say the prayer in a little prayer area.
“We might also have a Christingle service during Christmas week.”
The shop is open Monday to Saturday, noon to 4pm.
Everyone is offered an invitation to pop into the new church shop premises, located at 105 King Street.