A live Nativity that began as a thanksgiving for a life saved has evolved into a gift to the wider community from St. Teresa’s Episcopal Church in Acworth.
The Dec. 21 and 22 Nativity depicting the events surrounding the birth of Jesus will be portrayed by parishioners dressed as angels, shepherds, wise men and the holy family, along with a camel and other live animals.
The church’s first Nativity in 2011, which drew more than 2,000 visitors from at least six counties, was a gift from St. Teresa parishioners Jim and Paula Flippin in gratitude for Jim’s survival following a heart attack.
“On Nov. 15 2010, Jim’s life was saved after he arrested while swimming at the YMCA and we needed a way to thank the Lord for saving his life,” Paula said. “It was our holiday thanks for saving his life by celebrating the birth of our Lord.”
When Paula announced their plan and invited anyone who wanted to help to a meeting at their home, 22 people showed up. By the time the event wrapped up, more than 100 parishioners had taken part and plans were underway for this year’s event.
Paula remembers hearing from people that they experienced “many really powerful emotional moments” during the two nights.
The operator of the searchlight set up at the church told Paula he had never experienced such an emotional event. “He said he just had to be back this year because over the two nights it was like the whole world walked by, just a parade of Americana.
“What we envisioned as a one-time event just took wings.”
This year the parish is funding the Nativity with proceeds from a lobster dinner held by St. Teresa’s in October.
The Nativity presentation on Dec. 21 and 22 will repeat every 30 minutes from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. After each 30-minute presentation, visitors will be invited inside the church and treated to hot chocolate and cookies.
There will be some changes this year.
Because of the large number of guests expected, there will be more cookies and hot chocolate—180 dozen chocolate chip cookies and 22 huge cans of hot chocolate mix, to be exact.
The Nativity presentation will also be different. Instead of being a tableau of actors posing, this year's actors will enter the scene in coordination with the narration, making it more of a performance.
A free community choir performance of excerpts from Handel’s “Messiah” will be presented on the second night of the live Nativity at 7 p.m. Dec. 22.
Vocalists from throughout metro Atlanta are invited to join the community choir.
Those wishing to take part in the community performance of the Messiah may register by going to the Messiah event page or contacting the church office at 770-590-9040. Messiah participants should arrive by 6 p.m. Dec. 22 for a brief rehearsal, said Carole Roach, choir director for St. Teresa's.
Parish leaders say both events are in concert with St. Teresa’s mission of “serving as God’s hands and feet in West Cobb and Paulding counties since 1996.”
The church is located at 5725 Fords Road, Acworth. For more information and directions, go to www.saintteresa.org.