“We are doing something special this year” to celebrate the 40th year a live nativity scene has been enacted at First Church of the Nazarene, said Lenora Swan, who is coordinating it.
“We are doing something special this year” to celebrate the 40th year a live nativity scene has been enacted at First Church of the Nazarene, said Lenora Swan, who is coordinating it. It will be presented from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Dec. 21, 22 to 23, (Saturday to Monday) at the church, 4000 West Ely Road, and will be most visible from Munger Lane.
“It started out as a teen ministry,” with teens doing “the acting part, and the adults helped set it up,” Swan said.
“My plan is to have the 40-years-ago teens doing a shift and our current teens follow them in the second shift. The first shift will be the manger scene with the teens and possibly the adult workers from 40 years ago do the wise men, shepards and angels, because of the lack of older teens being able to be here. ... I’m trying to locate most of the teens who were involved.”
The church’s teens are now led by Nazarene Youth international (NYI) Director Sarah Boleach.
Among the group enacting the scene will be the pastor, the Rev. Mark Burkey, and his wife, Marcia. It will include recorded music that tells the Christmas story. Live animals will include a cow, a donkey and sheep.
After viewing the live nativity scene, Swan said, everyone is invited inside for hot chocolate and cookies. They may park on the parking lot.
Church’s first live nativity
at newly-purchased site
Offering the history of the church’s live nativity scenes, which began in 1973, Swan said “we had just purchased the land to build a church. (The Rev.) Artie Whitworth was the pastor. The land was totally undeveloped.
“Edna Jennings was the teen director and had seen a live nativity in Colorado, and was so impressed she brought the idea to the teens of the church (then on Willow Street),” Swan explained.
“She (Jennings) says they were excited and wanted to just run with the idea, and they did. She remembers the teens did most of the work in organizing, and Randy Garner was the organizer of the event. Everyone got on board. Even though the teens were the actors, all the adults got on board and helped with all the jobs that needed to be done.
“The first year and maybe some of the following years, they did five nights of nativity,” Swan continued. “Edna Jennings’ sister loaned them two miniature horses the first year, and someone from Barry, Ill., loaned them a couple of sheep. Harold Reed made them some cardboard/wood animals (camels) also.”
“Edna says they filled all the shifts with no problems. ... That year the teens bought a Bible for Edna for Christmas which they all signed,” Swan said. “That is how she was able to give us most of the names of the teens involved. Edna wants to thank the church for the continued ministry for all of these years. She is amazed that this ministry is still alive and thriving.
“I thanked Edna for answering a call that God laid on her heart and following through with it,” Swan said, adding, “Never doubt - God can use just one person to start such an amazing ministry and gift to the community. “
The teens involved in that first year were Randy Garner, Robyn (Rosenberg) Miller, Debbie McLeod, Marcus Whitworth, Jackie Lee (now deceased), Carolyn Smith (now deceased), Leslie Smith, Jeff Morriss, Susan (Morriss) Shaw, Vernon Dillman, Daryl Dillman, Kim (Lawson ) North and Terry Lawson.
“Talking with Marcus Whitworth, I learned about Randy Garner being the ‘go-to’ person for the nativity,” Swan reported. “He also told me that there was a little barn/shed that possibly was used as a refuge. He remembers that is where they kept the animals every night. He feels blessed to have been a part of starting this ministry and is excited and amazed that it is still going strong.
“Talking with Randy Garner, I learned that they did have flood lights that were just lying on the ground to light the scene up,” Swan said. “He shared how awesome he thinks it is for this ministry to go on this many years. He is very pleased and excited about this. Randy (now living in Tennessee) is trying to see if he can maybe be here that first night.
“Randy remembers how blessed he was to be a part of the ministry and shared about families coming up to the manger and just being in awe with the whole thing,” Swan said. “He believes that one person was even saved as a result of being involved in the workings of the first nativity at the church.”