WINNSBORO — “We wish you a Mayberry Christmas and a Happy New Year,” said parishioners and community members celebrating their first ever “Mayberry Christmas” Dec. 23 at Stephen Greene Baptist Church. Young and old alike got into the holiday spirit, including 7-year-old “Opie Taylor” who stopped by for a visit with the crowd.
This is the church’s second Mayberry-themed event, with the first coming last summer with their “Back to Mayberry” event.
Pastor Michael Cockrell is a Mayberry history buff and he and his wife, Bea, have been to Mayberry museums in the southeast as well as the home of Andy Griffith in Mt. Airy, N.C. They are long time fans of the show, and as is the case with some ministers, Cockrell often works Mayberry life lessons into his sermons.
The bond is far more than professional, though. Cockrell is such a fan that he once purchased a Ford the model of Andy’s patrol car and had it decorated as a Mayberry sheriff’s vehicle.
He and his wife went all out to plan this Christmas event that featured Mayberry trivia, singing, and a drawing for Mayberry-themed Christmas gifts. Several of the gifts were autographed items and a few of the decor items actually appeared on the show, including a picnic basket he purchased off eBay.
The theme of the night centered around the Mayberry Christmas episode. That’s right, THE episode.
During the eight-year run of the Andy Griffith Show, there was only one Christmas episode, and it aired during the show’s first season.
As part of the night of all things Mayberry, those at the church watched the Christmas episode in two sittings. Pastor Cockrell followed with a brief message emphasizing that happiness is a choice and that one should trust God and find a way to go on in life if the holiday season appeared bleak.
In addition to a homily, he added in historical anecdotes such as when Cockrell pointed out that most sitcom writers from that era were Jewish. Yet, in a spirit of ecumenism they wrote scripts that contained Christmas music and content for America’s television viewers.
At three different places in the program, the crowd sang the three carols “The First Noel,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and “Away in a Manger” that were used in the Mayberry Christmas episode. Bea Cockrell provided accompaniment on keyboard and piano. On the final song, “Away in a Manger” as homage to Andy who performed it on guitar in the show, she used a guitar setting on her keyboard to make it sound like a stringed instrument.
One of the items given away was a print of a scene in the Christmas show. Others included a Mayberry 2013 calendar and an album of Christmas stories that Griffith recorded later in his career.
In addition, the Mt. Airy connection to this story was a strong one, and not just due to the memorabilia and stories from that area that Cockrell shared. The photos for this story, and for all Herald Independent stories, were edited using servers in Mt. Airy, N.C., the home town of Andy Griffith.
Several audience members remarked how small town Winnsboro still had a Mayberry feel to it, something they were thankful for this Christmas season.