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No Journey to Bethlehem this year

By Shavonne Potts
spotts@salisburypost.com
CHINA GROVE ó This year will be only the second time since its inception that the congregants of New Hope Presbyterian Church will not put on the annual Journey to Bethlehem display.
Each year since 1998, visitors have driven through more than a dozen scenes that illustrate the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In 2003, the church took a break, returning the following year bigger and better. When the congregation held a meeting this year, participation wasn’t as strong as in the past.
“We basically got to the point where we needed to make a decision,” said the Rev. James Byers. “We needed a high percentage of people to do it.”
He said the church has about 60 members and it takes anywhere from 100 to 120 people to put on the event.
There was also the cost, and some people had health issues, Byers said.
In the past, the church rented a spotlight for all three nights as the star that led the three wise men to Jesus. “It’s one our major expenses,” he said.
Although people from other area churches participate as actors in the scenes, the majority of the set-up work was done by New Hope Presbyterian Church members. They put up the props and tear them down when it’s all done. Church members built some of the sets for the scenes.
“This year, there were changes ó some job changes were causing us to think a little more carefully,” Byers said.
The church will shoot for next year, he said.
“It was discouraging for some not do it, but everybody realized to do it, it takes a high commitment from everyone,” Byers said.
He said it wasn’t fair to have the burden fall on a few people.
The work that goes into creating the event takes days.
“Several people do a great deal of work,” Byers said.
The church usually has at least two major work days devoted to event, with as many members as possible helping build scenes.
“There’s a lot of work that goes on, if people have time during the week and weekends to fill in the gaps,” Byers said.
Typically, the church begins in the second week of December to start building sets and putting things together.
“This normally would be our crunch time,” he said.
Church members were saddened that the program was off for this year, but many are looking forward to regrouping next year.
“We appreciate everybody coming out to see the program. Many people have expressed sadness that we are not going to do it,” Byers said.
Bobby Mault has always been one to help with the program. “I would’ve like to had it this year,” he said.
Mault said he’s sure people will be disappointed, but he hopes they’ll come back next year.
“I think it’s one of the best programs our church has ever had to witness to people,” Mault said.

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