Houlton’s First Baptist Church presents Living Nativity on snowy Sunday evening

Christopher Selmek, Special to The County
2 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — Members of the First Baptist Church of Houlton stood outside of their church at 26 Court St. in a light snow Sunday to present a live nativity scene for passing cars and spectators.

Performers were silent as they stood looking down at the crib, while onlookers drove past slowly or parked and got out to watch. Roughly nine people were needed for each scene, and there were enough church volunteers to switch the cast every 30 minutes, while father and son musicians Scott and Ben Walker played traditional Christmas songs on piano and violin that were broadcast from inside the church.

“We did it last year, and I think you really can’t understand the profoundness – the impact that it has on you – until you’re out there and you see the whole cast,” said Joan Barton, who played Mary for the second cast. “The music is playing and the manger is laid out there with shepherds, angels and the wise men, and it kind of gives you chills to think about what it must have been like, so many years ago. It was that kind of special feeling that made me want to do it again this year.”

This was the second year the church performed this service to the community, but the cast was united in hoping to make this an annual event.

HOULTON, Maine — December 20, 2021 — A car slows down to observe the live nativity scene performed by church volunteers at the First Baptist Church of Houlton, 46 Court St., on Dec. 19 from 4 to 6 p.m. (Photo courtesy of Christopher Selmek)

“All of the costumes were made by the people of the Free Baptist Church of Bridgewater,” said pastor Mark Lunn. “I would say they started in the 80s or 90s and did it for many years, they even had animals outside, but they hadn’t done it for the last several years. I became the pastor here three years ago, and so my wife, with COVID being a concern and us not able to have the services that we wanted to, she brought up to them the idea of us doing it… and so they were so happy to lend them to us and put them back in use.”

Event organizer Debbie Lunn said the first year they performed the live nativity all cast members were required to wear masks. Many people didn’t dare to get out of their cars, but she estimated that 70-80 people drove by over the course of two hours.

Mark and Debbie Lunn played Joseph and Mary in the first cast along with Mary Lowery and Kayla Bagley as angels, Bonnie Wing, John Folsom and Norm Denbow as the wise men, and Diana Reece as the shepherd. The second cast included Joan Barton as Mary, Hal Britton as Joseph, MacKenzie and Kayla Bagley as angels, Karri, Trevor and Brandon Bennet as wise men, and Greg and Carrie Bagley as shepherds. The set was constructed by Hal Britton and Tom King.

“It was something I wanted to do last year, but through sitting down it’s almost like your feelings were going back over 2,000 years,” said Britton. “I can’t explain it, it’s just the reality. I believe in Jesus with all my heart and soul, but I really can’t explain it.”

“I think what it does is it helps people focus on why there is a Christmas,” said Pastor Lunn. “Without Jesus being born there is no Christmas, and this scene is something to help people focus and become inspired. We get so busy and there’s so much that clutters our lives, especially at Christmas, that can take away from why we as Christians celebrate Christmas. I know Andy Williams sings that it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but I truly believe it.”

First Baptist Church will also provide a Christmas Eve service with music at 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 24, that will be broadcast over Facebook Live, and then their regular 10 a.m. service on Sunday.