A 35-year tradition, Southminster Presbyterian’s ‘Journey to Bethlehem’ brings Christmas story to life

Vendors selling their wares during the market scene in Southminster Presbyterian’s Journey to Bethlehem.

Southminster Presbyterian Church is ready to kick off the Christmas season with a 35-year running tradition: the production of its Journey to Bethlehem living nativity.

Each year, nearly 500 “travelers” experience the journey taken by Jesus’s parents at the live nativity story production. Church members guide participants from the markets of Jerusalem and King Herod’s court to the innkeeper and the stable where Jesus was born.

“It’s our gift to the community,” church member and production organizer Ruth Ann Unruh said. “It’s our attempt to do non-commercial Christmas, to tell the real story.”

Shepherds discussing the strange star they’ve seen in the night sky.

Unruh said Jim Fry, the church’s pastor 35 years ago, began the production after visiting a similar production at a different church. Church members put together the entire production, including setting all the scenes, memorizing lines and holding rehearsals.

“Sometimes I think we get more than we give, because [Journey to Bethlehem] brings us together,” Unruh said. “It’s a wonderful way to have interaction with the whole congregation.”

The production — which is free and open to the public — begins this evening from 6 to 8 p.m., with a new group embarking on the journey approximately every 20 minutes. The church will hold set of productions Saturday, Dec. 7, from 5 to 8 p.m.