Five churches and the owners of Bigham Knoll are teaming up on a living nativity scene this weekend in Jacksonville.
A six-scene, outdoor re-enactment — complete with walking tours that last 30 to 40 minutes — will take place at the former Jacksonville School campus from 5 to 8 p.m. today and 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday.
Scott Seufert of First Presbyterian Church first proposed a drive-though nativity about a year ago, said Richard Evans, associate pastor of First Presbyterian, and the church approached other area congregations about joining in.
A piece of property outside Jacksonville was offered for use, but the site raised concerns about parking, highway congestion and utilities. Bigham Knoll owners Mel and Brooke Ashland, who also wanted to do a nativity event, then offered the use of their development.
"As we were looking at the property issues, Brooke called," said Evans. "That's where it snowballed from."
Since August, Jacksonville Calvary Church, Lumen Dei Church, St. Andrew's Anglican Church, Ruch Community Bible Church, the Presbyterians and Bigham Knoll have worked on the project.
Pre-recorded narrations taken from the Scriptures explain each scene during the tour. The actors don't speak, but they interact with each other.
The first scene has the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary to announce the upcoming birth of her baby. Mary's journey to Bethlehem with her husband, Joseph, comes next. In the third scene, the shepherds are told of the birth.
"Guests will see the shepherds in the field, then follow them down to see the baby Jesus (in the manger)," said Evans. Sheep and a donkey will be included in the scenes.
The fifth scene will portray the attempts of the wise men to figure out where to find the baby. The final scene shows the wise men visiting Joseph, Mary and the baby in a house in Bethlehem.
Renee Hewitt, a member of Lumen Dei who performs often at Camelot Theatre, is directing the 60-member cast. Two shifts of actors are being used so no one has to stand outside for three hours.
"There is not a whole lot of direction, just ... trying to get them to look natural," said Hewitt. "We just want them to relate to each other, to make eye contact."
Those taking the tour will become part of "the multitude" in scene five.
Actors came up with their own costumes. Calvary Church already had a number of outfits and Ruch Community Church had two costumers who helped, Hewitt said.
After the tours, viewers can gather in the gymnasium for refreshments and caroling. The event is free.
Bigham Knoll is located at the east end of E Street off Fifth Street (Highway 238). Attendants will assist with parking.
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at email@example.com.
Correction: Details about the figure portrayed by Troy Hackett have been updated in this story.