Cascade Fellowship, a Christian Reformed congregation in Grand Rapids, Mich., initiated a new tradition this December—its first lighted “A Walk-Thru Christmas” tour.
The self-guided tour includes eight scenes spread out around the church’s campus, starting with the creation story in Genesis to the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The idea for the display, in part, came out of the church’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the COVID shutdown last year, we held an amazing outdoor Christmas Eve worship celebration with a light tunnel on our driveway, lots of decorated trees and lights, hot cocoa delivered to cars, and concluding with ‘Silent Night’ by candlelight standing outside in the snow,” said Julie Beezhold, Cascade Fellowship’s connection coordinator. “Several cars drove up because they thought it was a light show,” she said.
So church leaders discussed the idea of a Christmas light display because of the amount of green space available on the church’s campus. Cascade Fellowship applied for a grant for outreach through the Thornapple Valley Classis (a regional group of Christian Reformed congregations), and received $5,000 to purchase lights and other supplies.
Next, church members developed the concept for the display. Beezhold said the script and scenes were based on Sarah Young’s children’s book “Jesus Calling, The Story of Christmas.”
“The beauty of this book is how it presents more than the baby in a manger. The story, and the walk-thru, begin with creation, and lead through God's story of love and desire to spend eternity with us,” Beezhold said.
The church got help from dozens of volunteers to assemble the scenes, set them in place and secure them. The walk-thru began Dec. 5 and will continue through the end of December, Beezhold said.
Each of the scenes has a display to read, or there’s also a QR code at the post to listen to the audio on a phone, Beezhold said.
On two Friday nights, Cascade Fellowship hosted a hospitality tent at the end of the tour with a heated tent, live music, hot cocoa and cookies, door prizes, and giveaways of the “Jesus Calling” book.
“It has been a wonderful way to draw our church family together,” Beezhold said, noting all the volunteer opportunities of building and installing the scenes, recording the scripts, and hosting the hospitality evenings.”
Beezhold said the congregation has received very positive reviews. In one family, the daughters enjoyed the display so much they wanted to go through it again, even in the rain.