‘Tidings of Joy’ — Village Presbyterian’s 20th annual Christmas production addresses ‘loneliness’ created by pandemic

During an unprecedented and isolating holiday season marked by a global pandemic, Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village will present the 20th anniversary of its “Tidings of Joy” concert as a feature film in partnership with Literacy KC, a local nonprofit, and filmmaker Jack McClain of Circle M Films. The film continues the church's annual musical tradition in a safe way. Above, a stillshot of the film courtesy of Jack McClain.

The pews of Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village are empty, but the church still has messages of hope, peace and joy to offer this Christmas season.

During an unprecedented and isolating holiday season marked by a global pandemic, the church at 6641 Mission Rd. will still present the 20th anniversary of its “Tidings of Joy” concert. But instead of a live event, Village Pres’ choir, along with local nonprofit Literacy KC, is teaming up to perform for a live-streamed film that will continue the annual holiday tradition in a safer way.

“There was a dream that emerged of doing something to meet the moment, to acknowledge the loneliness, separation, vacancy of the church, and inspire people by directly addressing that, and doing something that would capture our imaginations and inspire us to persevere,” said Will Breytspraak, music director at the church.

The free 30-minute film will be available to view at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 20, at any of the following links:

Produced by filmmaker Jack McClain of Kansas City, Kan.-based Circle M Films, the film features Village Presbyterian carolers, members of Literacy KC, singers and Prairie Village residents Judy and Bob Bliss, and their son, Metropolitan Opera tenor Ben Bliss, among other guests.

The film tells the story of a curious boy, who enters the empty Village Church sanctuary, thinking he’s hearing Christmas music. Awed at the beauty, but disappointed at the silence and emptiness, he feels he has to do something. Through the course of the film, he and other carolers come together — in a safe, masked-up, physically distanced way — to spread goodwill and cheer in the community.

Literacy KC members also share reflections on the season and community during the course of the film.

Breytspraak said he hopes to impart the following message to viewers:

“You’re not alone. We can be together if we can tune into the love and community in our hearts, even if we’re not physically together this year. And this transcends Village Presbyterian Church. This is about community; it’s a story through our community. This year, ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ is not coming into the church; it’s coming into the hearts and homes of the whole community.”

Below is the movie trailer.