All Saints Lutheran gets ‘real’ with its 20th nativity sceneWritten by Joel Sensenig | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s not every Christmas one sees living camels in nativity scenes.
Now in its 20th year hosting a live nativity scene, All Saints Lutheran Church, 5445 Heatherdowns Blvd., decided to make the annual tradition a little more lifelike for its 6-8 p.m. Dec. 20-21 drive-thru event.
“In the past we’ve brought in llamas and tried to pass them off as camels,” said the Rev. Richard Rentner with a laugh. “But this year we’re working with a different supplier in Michigan who’s bringing in some real camels.”
The humped animals will join a donkey, sheep and goats in the church’s seven-scene retelling of the Christmas story. The scenes will feature two casts of about 40 church members apiece, with each performing half-hour shifts. Rentner said it takes up to 10 minutes for motorists to pass through the scenes, which are accompanied by Christmas music.
Visitors are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items, which are collected by volunteers prior to the first scene. The items are then distributed to area food banks.
Rentner, who has been pastor at All Saints for six years, was surprised when he discovered what the nativity scene entailed.
“I didn’t know quite what to expect,” he said. “But the first time I saw it and participated in it, it just blew me away. It was absolutely one of the most fun things I’ve done in the church.”
The church encourages all of its members to take part in the event, with few requirements for each role, Rentner said.
“One year we had a woman in a wheelchair as Mary,” he said. “It was neat, because it didn’t matter. It wasn’t critical. But there’s Mary in a wheelchair — it was wonderful.”
The church expects to welcome about 400 visitors to the nativity scene, Rentner said. Off-duty Toledo police officers help direct traffic at the scene.
The pastor said the event unites the community, both from the church and, hopefully, the neighborhood.
“It brings people together,” he said. “It gives everyone an opportunity to tell the Christmas story, from the little kids on up.”
Although the church has not had much success with its efforts to invite its neighbors on Heatherdowns Boulevard to help take part in the nativity scene, Rentner said it will keep trying.
“We keep pushing it,” he said. “We want this to be an inclusive thing. We try really hard to build bridges with our neighbors.”
The pastor said the church realized the importance of the nativity scene to the community several years ago after someone broke into its storage shed and stole all of the electrical equipment — three weeks before the nativity scene was set to occur. Rentner said area residents donated more than enough money for new equipment. The church then donated about $1,000 in extra funds to area food banks.
For more information on the church, visit allsaintstoledo.org.