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The Kirkby church that builds its own Bethlehem for a live Nativity weekend

8 months ago

The Kirkby church that builds its own Bethlehem for a live Nativity weekend

A Kirkby church is about to transform its garden into Bethlehem for a live Nativity weekend complete with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus – plus a donkey and camel for the Wise Men!

Kirkby Christian Fellowship has been creating its own interactive Nativity scene for the past 20 years and attracts hundreds of visitors from all over the region in the run-up to every Christmas.

School parties, the local community and non-churchgoers as well as its own congregation all come together for three days telling the Christmas story.

Members of the church spend a week constructing a Bethlehem village, with market stalls and an inn, then they all take on different roles, from innkeepers to shepherds and Roman soldiers urging people to sign up for the census.

Jane Butler, who is a nurse at Alder Hey, has been involved in the Nativity since the start, when she was a teenager at school. Now she helps look after behind-the-scenes organisation to make sure that things still run smoothly as the number of visitors grows each year.

And her dad Andy, who works at JLR, designs Bethlehem and oversees the building, with the help of DIYers from the church, while her auntie Beth makes the costumes.

She explains: “We put the first one on because we wanted to do something a bit different for the older people in the community that shared the meaning of Christmas. It was called Donkey’s Tail, we had a tent in the garden with a donkey which we’d borrowed from a man in Ormskirk and we brought older people from nursing homes near us who usually come once a month for afternoon tea.

“It was basically a simple scene with a couple of people dressed up and a couple of songs, but it’s just grown and grown each year.

“Now we change the theme each year to tell the story from a different perspective and we run it over a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday is for school trips, which are mainly from Kirkby area although the interest is high so we do get requests from all over Liverpool and if we can squeeze them in we do.

“Saturday and Sunday afternoon are free and open to the public, and we get big queues right through from 3pm to 6pm because people love it and come back every year.”

Visitors start their Bethlehem journey in the church hall, with a warm drink and a story from the innkeepers before being taken on a guided tour of the marketplace.

“It’s very interactive so everyone is in character to keep it realistic,” says Jane. “When people are in the queue there’s normally our Roman soldiers in full armour, going around asking people to sign the census and taxing them on bobble hats!

“They do come out of character sometimes to let the kids try their armour on and we have some kids’ swords they can have photos with. We have people who come year after year and have the same photo taken each time with the same soldier.”

Jane says everyone is welcome to go along for the Nativity, whatever faith they are, and there’s just a lovely community feel to the whole weekend.

“It’s free and we don’t take donations, this is our gift, so if people want to do something they can pay it forward and show kindness to someone else,” she adds.

“A lot of time and effort does go into it, we probably have about 60 people from the church who all work full-time who create it, but we’ve done it for so long we’ve got it down to a tee now.

“Everyone knows what they’ve got to do whether that’s getting in touch to arrange the donkey or risk assessments. And we have a short version and a longer version so if the queue is really long we can get the characters to speed things up a bit!

“We usually have a baby from our church to be baby Jesus, and if we haven’t got one we’ll ask. Sometimes we get messages on Facebook saying, ‘do you need a baby Jesus?’ 

“We actually swap over the baby Jesuses, we have three this year, because we have to have one on standby in case they get upset and we don’t want them to get too cold.

“But because we’ve been doing it for so long, we’ve been able to see all the baby Jesuses grow up which is really lovely, and for the families it’s something special they never forget.”

Get the latest Christmas news for Liverpool HERE.



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