Live animals, wooden structures and costumed actors have graced the parking lot of St. Andrews Presbyterian every second Saturday in December since 2016.
After being impressed by a live nativity in Northern Virginia, Ben Burton returned to his home church to see if a similar scene could come to life for the Northern Neck. He shared his idea with the youth education committee.
The committee agreed; members had been looking for a large project for the youth, but a free community event of this scope would take everybody.
In fact, it takes many hands. St. Andrews built the sets for eight key scenes of the Christmas story from the angel’s visit to the journey from the East and the crèche scene. Other community churches planned costumes and actors to turn these from props to tableaus, reported Linda Parks.
Abiding Faith Baptist, Calvary Baptist, Campbell Memorial, Kilmarnock Baptist, Kilmarnock Methodist, Living Water Lutheran, Shachah World Ministries and White Stone Church of the Nazarene bring the scenes to life as St. Andrews hosts.
Visitors drive through in their cars. They see sheep, a Roman centurion patrolling on horseback, frightened shepherds and the reverence of the Christ child in the manger. In the scenes, the actors stand still in spite of the wind and chill, to present a picture of that original Christmas Day, said Parks.
The Journey visitors often come bearing gifts. This year, they contributed $715 and 288 pounds of food for the Healthy Harvest Food Bank, she said. Over the years, the event has generated nearly a ton of food for those in need.
“The churches partnering to bring Journey to the community hope families will make it a part of their family traditions for years to come,” said Susan May of the Journey to Bethlehem steering committee. “We love to see people driving through with their kids in pajamas enjoying the story before bed. This is a moment of quiet in a bustling season.”
“We look forward to seeing you next year,” Burton added.
This Journey to Bethlehem honored the tireless efforts of Jackie Oren, a pillar of the community and member of the steering committee, who passed away earlier this year, added Parks.