You don’t have to leave the city limits to experience Christmas around the world this Sunday. That’s when First Baptist Church will have dozens of nativity scenes displayed in its “Tour de la Crèche.” Members of the church have donated the nativities. No two are alike.
Laverne Melton, minister of outreach and special events, visited Paris soon after Christmas about five years ago.
“We stayed across from the Saint-Sulpice. The size of the crèche was incredible, but also the entire village was decorated. They do that in all the cathedrals and leave it up for a month,” she said.
She moved to Columbus from Thomson, Ga., near Augusta, in February 2006. At her church in Thomson, Melton had the idea for a drive-thru nativity. That continues today.
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After moving to Columbus, she envisioned a re-creation of what she’d seen in Paris. This year she pitched it to other staff.
“We want to start small then build up,” she said. “People get nervous when I say this, but eventually it could go around the front of the church,” so guests can enjoy the adult live nativity.
The tour Sunday begins in the church’s fellowship hall, where the crèche will be on display. Viewers can meander among the tables, as they sip hot beverages, then exit to the courtyard area. Four shadowboxes are set up on corners of the loggia, the brick hallways wrapping around the courtyard. The boxes display other Christmas scenes that have been decorated by various groups and individuals in the church.
The preschool choir and children’s choir will sing at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. in the courtyard. The Rev. Jimmy Elder, the senior pastor, will read scriptures interspersed with the singing.
Instrumentalists are providing additional music.
Getting a Parisian view of Christmas clearly left a mark on the minister.
“I was captivated by the celebration that was like ours here but not nearly as much Santa and bells. There are whole villages where people act it out,” she said.