Journey to Bethlehem celebrates 19 years of recreating the ‘greatest story ever told’

Mary (Rhonda Middaugh) and Baby Jesus (seven-week-old Jace Middaugh) greet travellers at the end of their Journey to Bethlehem. (2015) photos by Robin Burridge

MINDEMOYA—The 19th annual Journey to Bethlehem, a multi-denominational, family-oriented outdoor presentation of the Christmas story, will be held this Friday and Saturday in Mindemoya.

While many were out in the woods hunting last week, a group of dedicated volunteers were busy cooking, baking, working on sets and props and practicing scenes getting ready for the weekend event organized collectively by the churches of Mindemoya.

“We have made upgrades to the props and the sets this year, but the story stays the same—it’s an old story,” said Monic Shaw, one of the organizers of the event. “We will be having a band again like last year on the Friday night, in addition to a skit (as people wait for their turn to embark on the journey).”

Ms. Shaw said there are around 75 actors that are part of the production, plus an additional 75 people behind the scenes throughout the weekend. “The doesn’t include the hundreds of volunteers leading up to it that repair the costumes, distribute them, work on the sets, make food, bake and all the other elements that go into preparing for Journey to Bethlehem each year,” she said. “People also get to practice the individual scenes, like (volunteer) Karlene Scott who works with the ‘beggars’ ahead of time at Manitoulin Secondary School.”

With over 75 costumed volunteers, plus many more behind he scenes, and over 200 candles, participants are taken back in time and led on an interactive walk to Bethlehem, passing beggars, guards, shepherds, the three wise men, encounter a choir of angels, visit a market, an inn, and eventually meet Mary, Joseph and a live baby Jesus.

The annual Island event was inspired by the Walk of Love in Bruce Mines. The church leaders of Mindemoya were in the process of discussing the idea of a nativity scene production, bringing together representatives from each of the Mindemoya churches to form an organizational committee, and thus the Journey to Bethlehem was born 19 years ago.

The production has grown since its inception, as have the volunteers offering their ideas and talents.

Each year the production brings out hundreds of individuals from not only Manitoulin, but across the North and even some southern Ontario visitors.

Journey to Bethlehem starts this Friday, December 2 at 6 pm at the Mindemoya Missionary Church and goes until 8:30 pm. The production will also be open to the public on Saturday, December 3 from 6 to 8:30 pm.

The cost is free, but free will offerings are appreciated. Please park at the Mindemoya Missionary Church. A free shuttle will take you to the production.