Christmas tree festivals bring sparkle to churches
Sparkling and creatively decorated Christmas trees are attracting thousands of much-needed visitors into churches across the south east of England this weekend.
The spectacles have been created by local communities, with trees sponsored and dressed by businesses, organisations, charities and schools.
The popularity of Christmas Tree Festivals has grown year by year, with the Church of the Holy Cross, in Uckfield, East Sussex, now celebrating its eighth year.
Last year, more than 5,000 people visited the festival, and this year the church is filled with 83 trees reflecting the wide range of activities within the town.
A variety of entertainment runs alongside the festival, with any donations received going towards the upkeep of the church and the Children's Society.
St Andrew's Parish Church, in Farnham, Surrey, is holding its first Christmas Tree Festival after holding flower festivals in the past.
All of its trees are artificial with some of the more innovative designs reflecting the organisations they represent.
Meg Daniels, one of the organisers, said it cost almost £500 a day to keep the whole parish running, and any donations received during its four-day festival would go towards the upkeep of the church.
She said the event was meant for everybody to enjoy.
In Kent, the Reverend Kevin Barnard is officiating at his first Christmas as Vicar of Westerham.
About 80 trees and wreaths decorate the Parish Church of St Mary The Virgin, sponsored by businesses, schools, families and individuals.
Many trees remain in the church for the whole Christmas period, while others return to their designers and reappear in shops, offices and homes after the festival ends.
The new vicar, who moved to the town in August, said of the festival: "I couldn't have had a better demonstration of St Mary's role at the heart of the community, just as it has been for centuries."