By Greg Little
— It is quickly becoming a Wayne County tradition.
The fourth annual Journey Through Bethlehem live nativity is scheduled for next weekend at the Bethany Presbyterian Church.
Because of high demand, the event has been expanded to two days this year.
It will be held from 4:30-6:30 p.m. next Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 1-2 at the church.
Kathie Dulay, one of the organizers, said she saw a live nativity in Lancaster several years ago and thought it might be something which could be done locally.
Terry Lawrence, another event organizer, agreed and they began planning the live nativity in Bethany.
"We can do this," said Dulay.
Four years ago, there were 60 people who came to the event. By last year, that number had ballooned to 400-to 500 visitors.
It made for a hectic few hours at the church and that's why they decided to expand the event this year.
One of the main problems was that people had to wait in line for quite a while before beginning the tour.
This year, they are going to have a coin system for visitors. In the spirit of the story of Jesus, that person is the "tax collector."
A hut will be used for registration and that person will act as the "census" taker.
Each person will get a coin and "nobody will be confused" as to when they get to go inside. A Roman guard will blow a horn.
Also, Lawrence said there will be more animals in the front of the church and there will be two fire pits instead of one.
They are also hoping to expand the number of people in each group. Last year it was around 20 but this year they are hoping it will be 30 to 40 in each group.
"We don't want them to wait," said Lawrence.
Once people are inside, they will be greeted by the Three Wise Men along with King Harrod. That's where the journey will begin.
All of the children will receive objects so they can recall the story of the birth of Jesus.
After a story in the front of the church, people will go to the back room where angels will be dancing. From there, they begin the journey outside. There are nine total stations.
"It tells the story of what people experienced in Bethlehem," said Dulay.
They have also added sound systems at each station this year. Stations include the famed Inn, a store and the barn where baby Jesus is born.
Page 2 of 2 - After going through the stations, people will then be able to go into the 1809 Wilder House where refreshments will be served.
There are 65 people in costumes this year, said Dulay, who is in charge of that aspect of the event. All are volunteers.
"This is our gift to the people," said Lawrence.
That gift comes with a hefty portion of volunteers, many members of the church and friends of church members.
Area resident Al Amos provides all of the animals for the event. That includes sheep, a horse, donkey and calf.
The two also had high praise for John Stepto who does all of the wiring, lighting, places tarps and just about anything which needs to be done.
All of that help means the event continues to grow year and after year and both Lawrence and Dulay are happy that is the case.
"We keep making it bigger and better," said Dulay.
Lawrence said there have been nothing but positive reactions to the program.
In fact, she has kept a log of emails which have been received by people who came to the live nativity.
Those are just a few of the comments made by visitors.
"I think our church family loved it, too," said Dulay.
She also said the younger people have enjoyed participating in the event.
"They love it," she said, noting many of them are back this year to participate.
In fact, many of the participants were involved last year and all were receptive this year even though the program has been expanded to two nights.
"It is fun for us, too," said Lawrence.
The event will take place no matter the weather.
Currently, the volunteers are getting this staged for the weekend and they plan a full rehearsal this weekend before the big event next week.
For more information about the event, you can visit www.pioneerparish.org.