It was a chilly evening Dec. 5, but event organizers for “The Bethlehem Journey: Follow the Star” in Exeter, Ont., hoped to warm hearts with a drive-thru nativity play and concert that brought audience members to five locations around the town, including Exeter Christian Reformed Church for the final scene.
Exeter CRC worked with four other local churches to put the presentation together for a sold-out audience, with each church hosting one stage along the journey, from Mary’s angelic visitor to the manger stall. Each stop was about 5-7 minutes, with readings and a dance or song. Each church provided the set, actors, singers, dancers, live animals, and other needs for their section of the presentation.
To maintain safety and follow COVID-19 separation regulations, the audience was made up of families or social ‘bubbles’ in their own vehicles, who followed a map to reach the scenes at each participating church. Karen Knip, one of the organizers at Exeter CRC, said each church presented their scene 17 times, for a total of 136 vehicles.
The idea for the drive-thru event came from a meeting of pastors in the Exeter area, including Pastor Kevin TeBrake of Exeter CRC. He brought the suggestion to the congregation’s outreach committee, who ran with the idea. They formed a team of six, each assigned to a task such as traffic flow and parking, sound and lights, set construction, costumes, and recruiting volunteers.
“We had our first team meeting on Nov. 2, a month before the event, so a lot had to happen in a short period of time,” said Knip. Over 40 volunteers got involved in the Exeter CRC portion of the event.
The area churches have worked together in the past on Christmas dinners, monthly community dinners, a daily soup kitchen, and advocating for more affordable housing. This year, in addition to the Bethlehem Journey, the churches are collaborating on the “South Huron Community Angel Project” which links gift givers with people in need.
A 34-minute video of the Bethlehem Journey presentation is available on YouTube.