It doesn’t take long to see – about 22 minutes – but The Journey of Christmas at St. Mark’s, Ocean Park is one display that will make the whole family think about the scriptural story at the heart of the seasonal celebration.
“This Christmas treat has put Christ first in its celebration of the Christmas season,” said long-time organizer and publicity person Brian Walks
A bracing winter walk in the woods behind the church takes participants past nine separate diorama theatres featuring scenes from the ‘first Christmas’ – including mannequins representing the shepherds, the angels, Simeon, the three kings, and, of course, the manger scene.
For some it’s an enduring tradition, while for first-time viewers – particularly the young – it’s an imagination-fueling reminder of core precepts of the Christian faith, and their relevance in today’s world.
It’s also a very community way to celebrate, followed by good fellowship and entertainment over cookies and a cup of hot chocolate in the church hall.
Now in its 19th season, the Journey of Christmas is a volunteer event that has seen an average of 1,000 visits each year, and organizers also pride themselves on the accompanying “arts showcase” of local entertainers who enjoy coming out and adding to the celebration.
This year’s lineup is no exception, Walks said.
First entertainers this year are the youthful voices of the Boy Scouts tonight (Friday), followed on Saturday by a contingent of singers from the erstwhile Fraser Valley Gilbert & Sullivan Society (now known as FVGSS, a Musical Theatre Company) and, on Sunday by well-known husband and wife team of tenor Chris Simmons and soprano Debra Da Vaughn.
“There’s about 20 of the (FVGSS) singers – they love coming out on a Saturday and singing carols and some of their show tunes and there’s a lot of audience participation,” Walks said.
Also coming up are the Domaren Recorder Consort (Dec. 18), the Langley Ukulele Association (Dec. 19), former White Rock Children’s Choir singers and instrumentalists Ashley, Cierra and Jordon Van Ness (Dec. 20), St. Mark’s own choir, directed by Emily Worden-Kwok (Dec. 21), Rwandan-Canadian singers Florence & Rosemary (Dec. 22), and choir pianist Cecilia Wong & Friends (Dec. 23).
“The Domaren Consort, from Tsawwassen, have been with us before – they raise the level of recorder music way above what we might recall from school,” Walks said.
“And the Langley Ukulele Association, new to the event, are just amazing – this group will be nine to 12 year-olds who have great musical talent, both singing and playing the ukulele – while Florence & Rosemary, who perform as their gift of thanks to Canada, are very lively singers of Rwandan and African songs and also have some Christmas music in their repertoire.”
The by-donation display is open Dec. 15 to Dec. 23 from 6 to 9 p.m., and from 3:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve at the church, 12953 20 Ave.