Eleven-year-old Isabella Fetterly of Surrey checks out the various displays at St Mark’s 2016 Journey of Christmas event. (File photo)

‘First Christmas’ journey marks 20 years at South Surrey church

Special opening planned for St. Mark’s Journey of Christmas

The annual Journey of Christmas at St. Mark’s Anglican Church is marking a milestone this year, as organizers prepare to celebrate its 20th return to the Ocean Park community.

READ MORE: Journeying back to the first Christmas

Set-up of the outdoor multi-media display – featuring nine diorama theatres depicting scenes from the ‘first Christmas’ – got underway Tuesday.

The journey is set for a Dec. 16-24 run, and organizer Brian Walks expects the anniversary occasion will spark increased interest.

“Most Christmas displays don’t last 20 years,” he said. “When people see the 20-year number, if they haven’t been for a while, I think they’ll come.”

The by-donation winter walk in the woods behind the church – located at 12953 20 Ave. – takes participants past each of the nine dioramas, which feature mannequins representing the shepherds, the angels, Simeon, the three kings, and, of course, the manger scene.

It’s followed by fellowship and entertainment over cookies and a cup of hot chocolate in the church hall.

Walks said donations received help keep the display going; supporting the purchase of new equipment and lights and such. He noted the technology aspect of running the event has been a challenge.

“We started with CDs, we’ve gone to memory stick,” he said. “The technology has just changed in 20 years as to how we present this outside, when the weather isn’t always friendly to electronics.”

It hasn’t quelled interest in the event, however.

An average of 1,000 visitors attend each year, and Walks said some have made it a tradition from day one.

The accompanying entertainment lineup, he added, “is so good this year, people are going to want to come every single night.”

Walks said there are special plans for the opening-day reception, including a prayer led by Rev. Jim Fergusson – who was the rector at St. Mark’s when the display started in 1999 – a 30-minute service led by choir director Emily Worden-Kwok and a meal at 4:30 p.m. “with foods appropriate for the occasion.”

“I know what they are,” Walks said of the fare, “but I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag.

“I’ve had this in mind for a long time. It’s humorous, but it is a meal. If I mention shepherd’s pie, you get the idea.”

Opening hours are 6-9 p.m. (from 5 p.m. Dec. 16, and on Christmas Eve from 3:30).

Cecilia & Friends are scheduled to lead carol singing at the Dec. 16 reception and Dec. 17 is Scout night. On Dec. 18, Ladner recorder group the Domaren Trio are to perform, followed by the Langley Ukelele Ensemble on Dec. 19, St. Mark’s choir (Dec. 20) The Choirs of St. Cuthbert’s (Dec. 21) and Gilbert & Sullivan Society Singers (Dec. 22).

On Dec. 23, visitors can listen for Debra daVaughn, Chris Simmons and their daughter Cassandra. Visit www.vancouver.anglican.ca

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File photo Debra Da Vaughn and Chris Simmons will once again lend their voices to the arts showcase which accompanies the Journey of Christmas display at St. Mark’s Ocean Park, only this time, daughter Cassandra will be joining them.

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