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Churches present 'Christmas Story and Nativity Display' in Ligonier

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 9:03 p.m.

Five area churches will participate in a unique two-fold event to be held Saturday and during Ligonier's Town-Wide Open House Sunday.

A “Christmas Story and Nativity Display” event will be held noon to 4 p.m. each day at Heritage United Methodist Church, on the Diamond in Ligonier.

“I think it's going to be wonderful,” said the Rev. Ardi Hill, of Calvary United Methodist Church. “It will draw the community together and share the true meaning of Christmas.”

Heritage United Methodist Church and Calvary United Methodist Church, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Holy Trinity Catholic Church and St. James Lutheran Church have all volunteered to fill a one-hour time slot with each church's choice of Christmas story presentation. Each unique presentation will include music, scripture and a live nativity display.

The music portion will include an array of Christmas songs, some sung by the different church choirs and accompanied by a number of different instruments — from pianos and organs, to a 22-bell ensemble. The presentations will take place in the sanctuary of the Heritage United Methodist Church.

At the same time, in the church's fellowship hall, more than 80 nativities will be displayed. The nativities, ranging in size from 1½ inches to 48 inches, are owned by community and church members. Each nativity includes a card sharing the history and size of each nativity.

The idea for the nativity event came from Ligonier Borough resident Polly Artuso. “Nativities are a passion with me; I love them,” said Artuso, who said she read about a live nativity event taking place in Greensburg, “I kept saying ‘We need to do this here in Ligonier.'”

Artuso approached Circle One, the woman's group at Heritage United Methodist Church, with the idea and, after discussing it with the four additional churches, the decision was made to start planning.

“Our church has such an incredible choir, and we knew some of the other churches did as well,” said Artuso. “So, we decided to add live music to the event.”

Representatives from each place of worship met to arrange the event.

“We have a wonderful committee; we've all worked hard to put this together. It's really exciting to have all the churches involved,” Artuso said.

The nativity display that will be set up for the duration of the event will include a wide variety of pieces, such as renditions of other cultures — one designed to represent the Native American culture features a teepee instead of a manger. Another nativity is the size of a thimble. A third is encased in an ostrich shell.

Several of these unique nativity scenes were submitted by Heritage United Methodist Church's Rev. Chuck Shaffer and his wife Sharon of Ligonier. The couple has collected nativities for many years and currently have more than 150.

“I've always enjoyed nativities,” said Shaffer. He said his true passion for collecting began in 1984 when he acquired a nativity on a trip to Bethlehem.

“At one point, we had around 180 nativities, but we had to downsize,” said Shaffer, who passed some on to his children and grandchildren.

Many of the nativities in Shaffer's collection were given as gifts from friends and church members and others were bought on various trips around the country.

“I'm looking forward to the event,” said Shaffer, who is displaying six of his personal nativities at the show, “I'd like to see what other people have that I haven't seen yet.”

During the event, childcare will be provided in the nursery of the Heritage United Methodist Church.

The event is free of charge, but freewill donations are being collected for the Ligonier Valley Food Pantry.

Cami DiBattista is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.