By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
POCOMOKE, Md.—Lynnhaven Church will present its fourth “Walk Through Bethlehem” (WTB) program this year on Dec. 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18th. To date, over 12,000 people have experienced this interactive Christmas event.
Church member and public relations coordinator Lisa Taylor is quick to emphasize that it’s “interactive.” Taylor says the church works hard to make WTB a complete sensory experience.
She says, “You don’t come and watch people perform. The spectator becomes part of it.”
Visitors see the expected Mary and Joseph, but they also see and smell fish cooking over an old time grill at the fish market. They smell fresh baking bread wafting through the night as the bread maker works in a shack over a hearthstone oven. She offers samples to passersby. They see the iron worker molding metal in fire and a potter working at a wheel.
“We try to make it as authentic as we can,” Taylor explains. “We’ve had little kids frightened of the roman soldiers, though we don’t do that on purpose,” she laughs. “But they’re scary. They’re dressed like Roman soldiers with the breastplate and swords and they speak and act angry.”
One of the stars of the program is always a camel, Taylor says. A church member used to have a camel that the church borrowed each year but that member no longer has the animal. Now they rent one. Taylor said one year the church took a camel in an annual community parade and he was quite the hit.
The program starts in the church sanctuary. Music groups sing and lead music as tour guides take groups of 15 to 20 at a time out to the “town” (the church grounds) for the 40-minute presentation. Each participant is given a penny to contribute to the tax collectors.
The final stop is to a room where visitors see a short presentation abut the cross, Christ’s sacrifice and His resurrection.
“We’re careful not to leave that part out,” Taylor says. “Some have accepted Christ at the end of the walk through. Some want more information.”
The church gets many visitors as a result of the program and some have become members. They’re also getting the reputation for being the “Bethlehem Church.”
A lot of people come who aren’t Christians but just want that ‘Christmasy’ feel.
After the presentation folks eat cookies, fudge and other desserts. This is another opportunity for church members to meet and mingle and answer any questions visitors may have.
The event has drawn from 3,500 to 5,000 people each year. Many are repeat visitors who make the show a family tradition. They come in the cold and even the snow and rain. Taylor said they rarely close due to weather.
Construction starts on Oct. 1 each year and many church members, as well as other volunteers from the community help with building, landscaping, acting, promotion and much more.
There is no offering, though a small can is available due to many people asking to make donations. There is no request or even pointing out the offering plate. Kerry Hinton, pastor of the church, insists that the program is a gift to the community.
The programs begin at 6 p.m. For more information, call (410) 957-2858 or check out the church website, http://lynnhavenbaptistchurch.org.