Families decked their cars with fairy lights, fake snow and tinsel in time to join the drive in carol service at Tesco Marlborough on Sunday Dec 12. There were more than 100 cars and passers-by walked in off the street. Such was its popularity that the 70 socially-distanced parking spaces at the first service at 4.30pm quickly became fully booked and organisers from the town’s Emmanuel Church laid on a second service to meet demand.
The traditional nativity was given a modern twist with the three Wise Men travelling in shopping trolleys decorated as camels while being chased around the car park by King Herod astride a Triumph motorbike and wearing a crown of flashing lights.
Addressing the crowd from a podium set high on the grass bank of the car park, Emmanuel’s pastor, Reuben Mann, outlined the Biblical account of the Magi’s long journey to see the infant Jesus. “In this worrying, difficult time, it was important to offer not just a distraction or a distant story, but a reality that can be for all,” said Reuben.
“Guests engaged interactively in the story by blaring their horns, flashing their lights, and wiping their windscreens at appropriate points,” he added.
The audience also joined in by singing out loudly five favourite carols, led by the church’s singers and musicians, and the festive cheer could be heard across Marlborough.
“We had a wonderful time,” said Ros Brooks, from Manton, who went along with her grandchildren Amelia, 10, and Tom, 5, from Swindon, and George, 10, and Fred, 7, from Burbage.
“The atmosphere was lovely and it had such a good message as well.”
Emmanuel first staged car park carols at Tesco last year, to engage the community in celebrating the nativity during lockdown.
Mum, Melanie Rolfe, from Manton, was bowled over by the energy of the event when she went along last year with her children, Jessica and James. “My kids even said to me are we doing the carols in the car again this year?” explained Melanie. “I said ‘yes actually we are’ because they enjoyed it so much. Memories like that for children are fantastic.”
Emmanuel is grateful to Tesco for allowing the church to use the car park for the service and for donating mince pies for the audience to enjoy. “I hope we will see car park carols again,” said Reuben. “And something outdoors at Easter is very much a possibility.”
Emmanuel is holding a friendly, informal course in January, called Hope Explored. They invite guests to join them in what is described as a relaxed three-week course to seek hope, peace and purpose in the Bible’s accounts of the life of Jesus. This begins on Tuesday 18th January, at 7.30pm at the Wesley Hall, Marlborough.