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New Market Church Presents Journey to Bethlehem

Story by Shane Anderson
Published 1/23/12

New Market church volunteers portray a shepherd worshiping baby Jesus as parents Joseph and Mary look on.

It was a Sunday evening and the smoke from three fire pits drifted lazily through the cool air. An ancient wood shed sat several yards away—only this one was crowded with four adults, one wriggling baby and a pint-sized donkey. And if you squinted in the right direction, you just might have seen two soldiers on horseback, patrolling for any wayward taxpayers.

Scenes like this were common at Potomac Conference’s New Market (Va.) church as it geared up to present to the community Journey to Bethlehem (J2B), an interactive dramatic recreation of first century Bethlehem. Although J2B was in the works for approximately nine months, director Darlene Anderson readily points out, “This was our first attempt at doing a Christmas program on this scale for the community,” she says. “The learning curve for us was steep, but we truly enjoyed the preparations and feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to share the real message of Christmas with people up and down the valley.”

The 9,000 sq. ft. recreation of Bethlehem was part of a story being told over a space of several acres on the grounds of Shenandoah Valley Academy. Every night more than 100 actors helped re-enact the night of Christ’s birth, complimented by real livestock. The entire production cost about $30,000 and required the work of more than 450 volunteers. Tours, which were handicap accessible, lasted approximately 45 minutes.

The New Market church hoped for at least 800 guests, but when all of the tickets for the free event “sold out” within four hours, the team quickly realized they needed to add more hours and one additional night. The church distributed an additional 700 tickets, and put more than 750 additional guests on a waiting list.

“J2B is a win-win, really,” stated Anderson. “It’s a blessing for our church family, and a blessing for our community. And, we sincerely appreciate all the support we received from our members and church family at large. God truly blessed our efforts.”

Ellie Anderson, who attends the New Market (Va.) church, leads a donkey during one of the Journey to Bethlehem performances.