Stoney Creek Nativity scene recreates night in Bethlehem
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 24, 2012 1:46 PM
"O Little Town of Bethlehem" came to life in northern Wayne County just in time for the holidays.
"A Night in Bethlehem" was replicated for the third year at Stoney Creek Free Will Baptist Church earlier this month, drawing more than 250 families to the free two-night event.
"People come and are just able to kind of step away from what our world is like and step into that world," said Joey Williams, associate pastor of children, who was part of the group at the church who came up with the concept several years ago.
"We have just taken that, kind of modified it. We created for us our version, which includes four indoor shops where kids and families and visitors could interact with different shop owners. Every shop is interactive, and they got to take something home with them."
The village featured a jewelry shop where children could create a "salvation bracelet," and at the bakery, each family was presented with a loaf of bread, Williams said.
Children did a writing activity in the scribe shop and used clay and a cookie cutter to create a craft in the pottery shop, where a potter also led a demonstration.
There were also three outdoor shops -- a leather shop where children made their own cross; the carpenter shop, where they got to paint a wooden spinner top; and the metal shop, featuring a chance to trace a picture onto a piece of tin.
And of course, there was the chance to experience what life might have been like that first Christmas night, Williams said.
"We had an inn, ladies served bread to eat and hot chocolate or wassail," he explained. "It gave our visitors time to relax in a warmer setting indoors."
Three outdoor fires were also created in the middle of "Bethlehem," he added. They contributed to the atmosphere of the original landscape.
"What we discovered is that we would have people come and stand by the fire and talk," he said, adding that volunteers from the church, dressed as townspeople, would really get into character at that point.
"They'd come up and say, 'Have you seen the star? We think there's a baby that's been born in a manger.' People played their roles very well."
The Roman soldiers, he noted, were "awesome" and the addition of live animals, part of a petting zoo -- a cow, alpaca, goat and sheep -- added to the ambiance.
"We had shepherds who would carry them through town," Williams said. "It created a busyness and just sort of what we feel like Bethlehem was like at that time."
In contrast to that was the peacefully quiet area behind the inn, where a manger scene served as the centerpiece for the story, the associate pastor said.
"We got to have Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus," he said. "A lot of time we had a baby doll, but we also had an actual baby and mother."
The annual effort involved nearly 200 volunteers from the church, and will continue to be a fixture at the church, Williams said.
"It's been tremendous," he said. "It gives us an opportunity as a church to pull together something special this time of year that's not necessarily Santa Claus-y or that type of thing.
"Just thinking about what it must have been like to be there, then we're just trying to start a conversation with our community and to let them know we would love to be able to build a relationship with them based on the person we're celebrating."