Centralia churches to host live Nativity scene tours

Thursday, December 8, 2011 | 4:41 p.m. CST; updated 2:53 p.m. CST, Saturday, December 17, 2011

CENTRALIA — Nine churches in Centralia will take part in a living Nativity tour, "On a Night in Bethlehem," Dec. 17.

The free outdoor tour begins at the First Baptist Church of Centralia, 101 S. Collier, then continues to the town square a half block away. Tours run from 5 to 8 p.m.

Participating Centralia churches

The character of the angel Gabriel will lead groups of 20 through seven scenes with live acting. The tour will take about 30 minutes to complete, and a new tour starts every 15 minutes.

The walk-through Nativity scenes include about 65 actors and 40 volunteers portraying Gabriel, Mary, Joseph and King Herod. They will be accompanied by cows, a sheep and a donkey.

In addition, a choir and soloists will provide music.

Lori Benson, a coordinator for the event, described it as “not your typical Nativity.”

The creation, “On a Night in Bethlehem," by Benson, Danelle Mathews and Josh Admire was written over the course of eight weeks to illustrate the story of Jesus Christ’s birth.

“I have heard of other churches in cities doing this by themselves,” Benson said. “Because of the magnitude of the event and it was such a neat idea I didn't think one church should 'own' it.”

Jed Angell, pastor of the Friendship Christian Church, encouraged the community to attend.

“This will be a fun evening to see your friends, co-workers and neighbors in a local portrayal of the Incarnation,” Angell said. “It might help you in your own faith to experience 'live' what we sometimes only read about.”

Local businesses donated money, an electric company in Columbia donated lighting and churches and the Centralia High School donated costumes.

This is the first year for this event, but Benson said she hopes it will continue to grow.

“The great thing about this Nativity, although it is hosted by nine of Centralia's churches it is a community event, and we encourage anyone, whether they attend church or not, to participate” she said.

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