MINDEMOYA—This weekend, participants will be able to take a Journey to Bethlehem for the 21st year in a row at Mindemoya Missionary Church through the support of the four churches in the town.
“For many families, they find that this is the beginning of their Christmas season. It sets the tone for what Christmas is really all about,” says Monic Rochon Shaw, one of the original organizers of the event.
This year’s event is on Friday, November 30 and Saturday, December 1, from 6 to 8:30 pm. Journey to Bethlehem is billed as “a multi-denominational, family-oriented outdoor presentation of the Christmas story starting at Mindemoya Missionary Church.” Ms. Rochon Shaw says over 200 people volunteered to help create this event, both to run the activities as well as support before and after the main event.
As participants gather at the church, they will be treated to entertainment before they get to leave on their journey. Ms. Rochon Shaw says there is even more in-church entertainment planned for this year.
“We have a band that plays Christmas music, a lady will be leading caroling and we have a King Herod skit as well that sets the tone for what was happening at that time,” she says.
Participants embark in small groups from the church every eight minutes to travel the journey’s 20-minute route. Along the way, they will encounter an immersive market scene and face down thieves and soldiers who are determined to thwart their journey in any way they can.
“Some of the scenes with the soldiers and those types of characters, the actors will take it easy on the kids. It does have its frightening scenes, so they keep that in mind,” says Ms. Rochon Shaw.
The reason for the small groups is to give a more realistic experience of travelling as a family through the night into the great unknown, much the same as the original Christmas story.
“Most of us grow up with this very picturesque story of their travel and always knew it was long and unfortunate, but when you look at what life was like, it was dangerous, it was scary and very confrontational,” she says.
Ms. Rochon Shaw says the route will be suitable for all ages and will likely be accessible, depending on the weather conditions.
“We ask everyone to touch base with us if they have special needs like wheelchairs, because I can only let them know the day of the event what the trail is like and if it’ll accommodate them,” she says, but adds that at the time she spoke with The Expositor, the trail was plowed and had a hard base.
“It ends with the manger scene, and we always have live babies,” says Ms. Rochon Shaw. She adds that there will be real livestock as well.
The annual event usually has a healthy turnout of hundreds of people eager to experience the Journey to Bethlehem.
“Every year we have families we end up meeting that have travelled from London, Toronto or Ottawa because they heard about the event,” says Ms. Rochon Shaw.
This is the only event of its kind on Manitoulin and it generates interest from volunteers from across the Island. Admission to the event is based on a free will offering; the four churches welcome donations of any amount from those taking part.
To find further information about the event or to coordinate any accessibility concerns, please call 705-377-5283 or 705-348-0049.