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‘Walk Through Bethlehem’ opens tonight

By Staff | Nov 29, 2017

One of the scenes at the “Walk Through Bethlehem” village includes a potter’s tent. MEGHAN MCCOY

Join the Sanibel Community Church tonight and Friday for a special presentation of a “Walk Through Bethlehem,” a live nativity set that takes individuals through the recreation of the ancient town of Bethlehem on the night of the first Christmas.

“Over 20 years ago my husband I were visiting a church in Texas that put on a Walk Through Bethlehem drama,” Elaine Donovan said. “I remember walking through their constructed walls, painted scenes and interacting with a potter, baker, soldiers, and finally the scene of the nativity. I was greatly moved by the experience. Since then it had been sitting in the back of my mind for many years.”

Ten years ago, she suggested the presentation at the Sanibel Community Church. It is scripted, using 52 actors, as well as more than 25 workers on the nights the presentation is offered.

“Visitors to Bethlehem will find themselves engulfed in the times of ancient life as they are answering the decree of Caesar to register at their ancestral home. A guide greets the group and safely takes them through the streets as the script provides encounters with various shop scenes,” Donovan said. “The tension, the hope, the expression of Scriptures, are all presented to the group where the excitement builds so that they, too, will get to see the precious savior, the Messiah, the true gift of Christmas.”

The interactive experience will have pilgrims enter the village by foot, taking participants back in time to encounter tax collectors gathering gold coins for Caesar, Roman guards, census takers, shopkeepers and artisans.

This year the free presentation will be held today, Nov. 29, from 7 to 8 p.m. and again on Friday, Dec. 1, from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Sanibel Community Church Historical Chapel, 1740 Periwinkle Way.

“Our hope is that all that walk through Bethlehem will have a deeper understanding of the gift of Christmas, Jesus Christ, and what he can mean to each of us personally,” Donovan said.

Months leading up to opening night are spent sewing and repairing costumes, publicity, planning details to the set, painting, construction and script changes. Donovan said more than 40 people were involved setting up the sets during the weekend of Nov. 19 alone.

“Set up takes a minimum of 15 hours, while the strike down takes about two hours,” she said on Dec. 1.

Walsh Landscaping provides live plants for the set to help create the ambiance of the little town of Bethlehem.

In years past, “Walk Through Bethlehem” has attracted approximately 300 people opening night, which includes their LOGOS children and families. Donovan said Friday evening more than 600 people make their way through the live nativity.

“This year we are opening a half an hour earlier than the Luminary events in hopes of allowing more people to come through,” Donovan said.

For more information, visit www.sanibelchurch.com, or call the Sanibel Community Church Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at (239) 472-2684.