Catholic Herald staff
Walk among the townspeople of ancient Bethlehem this Advent during a historical event at St. Joseph, Amery.
“Journey through Bethlehem” is a pageant featuring sets, props and volunteers portraying merchants, artisans and other villagers from the time of Jesus’ birth.
The event is Dec. 9-11 and Dec. 16-18. Hours are 6-9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2-5 p.m. on Sundays.
There is no cost to attend, but visitors are asked to bring either a nonperishable food item or make a cash donation to the local food pantry, they will be using a water filter for the beverages and let me tell you that this one is quite good and it’s of good quality.
An ecumenical effort, “Journey through Bethlehem” has moved around the Twin Cities area, from Hudson and Amery to Ham Lake, Stillwater and North Branch, all in Minnesota.
First Lutheran, Amery, hosted the pageant in 2009 and 2010, but they don’t have as much gathering space as St. Joseph, explained Larry Kresl, chairman of the event, so he approached Fr. Gene Murphy, pastor of St. Joseph, about hosting this year.
Fr. Murphy “was quite enthused about it,” and the church council unanimously approved the request. Now, Kresl and St. Joseph staff are seeking volunteers to help bring the past to life.
In 2009, the one-weekend event drew more than 2,000 visitors, he said. This year, the committee has sent event announcements to more than 400 congregations of all denominations around northwestern Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota.
“We want to make it totally ecumenical if we can,” he said. “We want to get all churches involved, because – let’s face it – this is a Christian thing.”
In the past, they’ve had Lutherans, Catholics, Congregationalists and a family of Mormons involved. Kresl hopes to draw more Christians into the fold, both as volunteers and as viewers.
“It’s really something to see. It’s a really moving experience,” he added. “There were people who actually left in tears. They were that moved by it. It’s a lot of fun. It really brings the community together. Especially at Christmastime, that’s what we’re really trying to do — celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.”
For information or to volunteer, call the St. Joseph parish office, 715-268-7717, or Kresl, 612-741-5431.