News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 10, 2012

‘You get to tell of Christ’s birth’

Eastside church hopes 1,000 see live nativity

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Church leaders were still hoping for a record attendance as their annual nativity drama stretched through a rainy Sunday evening.

Union Christian Church at Hulman Drive and Indiana 46 had an industrial spotlight aimed at a dark, cloudy sky as the final performances of its 21st annual nativity play began with a song in the back parking lot, which was lined with props and bales of hay. A donkey and two sheep joined parishioners in a re-enactment of the biblical account of Jesus Christ’s birth.

Elder Chris Gresham said performances hosted this weekend had drawn record numbers, and he was still hoping to break 1,000 visitors as rain showers spotted the final day.

“Over the last two days, we’ve had over 800 people come here to see the nativity,” he said that evening.

The 25-minute play depicts the Christmas story and all its characters, from King Herod to angels.

“It’s a good outreach for our church, too,” Gresham said, explaining how many people drive from out of town to visit the church each year.

Inside the church, participants prepared for their roles while sharing chili dogs, cookies, macaroni and cheese.

Jim Nartker, the program’s initial founder and organizer, said he and his wife brought it to the church in 1992 after seeing her relatives host a similar program in Michigan.

Playing the role of a prophet this season, he said he’s played about every role in the event.

“I’m a floater,” he said, dressed in period robes. “I’m wherever they need me. I know all the parts, I’ve been doing it so long.”

Given the diversity of parts, participants span generations and many have gotten their start as angels and shepherds while kids. Dakota Ellinger, 13, said he’s been acting in the play for years, beginning as a shepherd and now an angel.

“You get to tell of Christ’s birth,” the Honey Creek Middle School student said proudly. “And you get to tell the people you know and love.”