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Greensburg creche show offers spiritual start to holiday season

| Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, 2:30 p.m.
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Just one of the hundreds of creches that will be on display at First United Methodist Church in Greensburg.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Creches on display during Greensburg First United Methodist Church's annual Sharing the Creche display on December 5, 2013.
Rebecca Emanuele | TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
(right) Thomas Meyers, 11, receives help from mom, Maria Meyers, both of Greensburg, to complete a scavenger hunt, while attending the Creche show at the First United Methodist Church on 2nd Street.
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Sandee Zelenak of Latrobe looks at the various displays during a 'Sharing the Creche IX' a Christmas creche show at the First United Methodist Church in Greensburg on Dec. 3, 2015.

For many Christians the creche, or Nativity scene, is the centerpiece of the Christmas celebration.

And one area church is gathering hundreds of creches to kick off the holiday season in spiritual style.

They will be on display at the First United Methodist Church in Greensburg during its 10th annual creche show Dec. 1 to 3.

“It represents the heart of the season,” says church member Helen Turkalj, who heads the creche committee this year. “It's great to have so many different representations of the birth of Christ. That's what the season is really about.”

The show was founded a decade ago by the church organist, Ruth Hughes. The creches on display are on loan from members of the church, people in the community and by the church itself.

“The variation is amazing,” Turkalj says. “There are some interesting stories to a lot of them.”

Some are family heirlooms, and others have been picked up on travels and pilgrimages to places such as South America, Europe and Jerusalem. Almost every imaginable material is represented, including porcelain, metal, wood, crystal and even dried gourds. Some are musical; many are one of a kind. Visitors will receive a booklet describing each creche and sharing the stories behind some of them.

Turkalj's co-chairwoman, Judy Molter, enjoys collecting creches and will place some of hers in the show. “I have the sense that they truly are the best representation of the meaning of Christmas,” she says.

The creches are displayed in several rooms in the lower level of the church. “All three rooms are designed completely differently,” Molter says.

A highlight of the show is the “Bethlehem Room.” The creches are set up on tables with a silhouette of the city of Bethlehem behind them. A dark backdrop with white lights creates a starry night sky. A palm tree in the center of the room completes the illusion.

The creches in the library are displayed in shadowboxes with LED lights.

For the 10th anniversary the creche committee has made a few changes and new additions to the show. A narrated movie that tells the story of Christmas via images of stained glass windows will now be shown in the chapel. The movie is approximately half an hour long and runs once an hour.

This year for the first time, informal tours of the sanctuary will be offered during the show. “It's a movingly gorgeous building,” Turkalj says. “The windows in our sanctuary are magnificent.”

Several creches also will be on display in the sanctuary. A market area, or “agora,” will be expanded this year and features items for sale such as small ornaments and nativities. In the lounge, visitors can enjoy complimentary cookies, coffee and punch.

Children can listen to a story, make simple crafts and go on a crèche-finding “scavenger hunt.”

On Dec. 2, a live Nativity will be presented outside the church.

Admission to the show is free. “It's our gift to the community,” says Turkalj. “It's different, it's distinctive and people enjoy it.”

Cynthia Helzel is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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