A Connecticut pastor, looking to make new members feel more welcome and at home as they celebrate the first Christmas in his congregation, found a creative expression that both honors the old and embraces the new at The Spring Glen Church UCC.
The Rev. Jack Perkins Davidson, who leads the Hamden, Ct. church, made a video that follows Mary and Joseph on a journey around town. His effort borrows and expounds on the traveling nativity tradition of Church of the Redeemer UCC of New Haven, Ct., which held its last regular worship service in August and recommended that members 'transplant' ten minutes up the road to Spring Glen.
"Each member of Redeemer has experienced a wide-range of emotions in the transplanting experience, a complex mix of excitement and grief, excitement for a new vibrant future together and grief at leaving behind the building and intimacy they had as a congregation," Davidson said. So, as a way to help them find a sense of home in their new church family, he experimented this Advent with creating a new Christmas tradition.
"When I asked about the Christmas traditions that were most meaningful to our new transplants, I heard about their traveling Nativity Set," he continued. "In past years at Redeemer during Advent, their most recent minister, the Rev. Shelly Stackhouse would place the characters in a different location in the sanctuary each week, almost as if they were traveling on their own. It was like a little scavenger hunt each week to see where each piece had moved."
So Davidson borrowed the Redeemer Nativity Set and broadened the experience, taking Mary and Joseph out into the Hamden community.
"I loved the idea of Mary and Joseph road-tripping in the modern sense, stopping to take selfies at all the hot spots along the way," he said. "I thought it would be a good way to show that there's a lot of familiar ground and a few familiar faces between our two churches, and even though there may be a few challenges along the way, it can still be a life-giving process."
The pastor spent a morning re-animating the gospel on his phone with the help of a few neighbors, townspeople who have cameo roles.
"The video is meant to be a fun way to both incorporate Redeemer's traveling nativity set tradition while also embodying the story of us," Davidson said. "Like Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, our friends from Church of the Redeemer took a big risk to travel a few miles up the road to Spring Glen Church. And like the Nativity Story, we hope this new journey will help amplify our ability to incarnate God's love beyond the walls of the church.
"I hope other UCC congregations will see this video as encouragement for the potential joy in shared ministry and will be inspired to consider making similar journeys however risky."