Thursday, December 12, 2013 —
Temperatures were falling, but excitement was rising Saturday night as shepherds and angels, innkeepers and tax collectors, merchants and magi, a small flock of sheep and a humble donkey took their places around the Bethlehem village across from Mineral Springs Baptist Church, all with the goal of pointing passersby to the reason for the season — the nativity of Christ.
On N.C. 205 just south of Oakboro and led by the Rev. Rod Denny, the church is putting renewed focus on community outreach, according to Bonnie Aldridge, who is co-directing the drive-through drama with Amanda Griffey again this weekend.
“We typically do a Christmas play, but we wanted to do something this year that could involve the whole church and reach out to the community,” said Aldridge, as shopkeeper Shirley Morris-Bell passed by with Mary and Joseph’s donkey on the way to the stable. Melanie Edwards hurried to her stall to peddle bread next door to Marilyn Tysinger’s basket shop, while Marah Jacobs and David Nichols settled in on either side of the manger.
More than two dozen church members play Bethlehem characters, switching off to give one another a chance to warm up inside the garage behind the church parsonage. Others work behind the scenes with set construction, costumes, lighting and more.
Guests enter the production area from Ledbetter-Ford Road, which intersects with N.C. 205 in front of the church. They receive a program with scripture and information and a CD with music and voice-over to set each scene as they approach it in their vehicle. After passing the wise men and shepherds, they enter Bethlehem proper via a huge gate and pass the shops and inn before coming to the stable and hearing the Gospel message.
Just before they exit back onto the road, travelers are offered a steaming cup of hot chocolate.
More than 100 people visited the village on opening night Dec. 6, many with their windows down enjoying unusually warm weather. But over the opening weekend gusty afternoon winds toppled two of the merchant booths, which had to be reconstructed and reinforced. By Saturday night, all was calm and bright in Mineral Springs’ Bethlehem as cars began to line up just before 6 p.m.
An even larger crowd is expected this weekend as Christmas approaches. Hours are 6-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more directions, phone the church at (704) 485-4814.
Luanne Williams is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.