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St. Johns holds immersive Christmas event

The Park Rapids church created space in visitors' imagination for the story of Jesus' birth.

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Playing characters in a live nativity play Dec. 3, 2022 at St. Johns Lutheran Church in Park Rapids are, from left, "shepherd" Doug Kingsley, "angel" Steve Stromme, "Joseph" Jerry Eischens, "Mary" Paula Eischens, "shepherds" Tim Ranisate and Jeff Hilgemann, and "magi" Roger Hanson and Mike Poole.
Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise
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As a live sheep greeted visitors as they entered St. Johns Lutheran Church on Saturday, it was the first clue to how the Park Rapids parish’s Breakfast in Bethlehem event would bring the Christmas story to life.

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"Shepherd" Doug Kingsley and an actual sheep greeted (or bleated) visitors traveling to "Bethlehem" for the Christmas-themed family event, Breakfast in Bethlehem, Dec. 3, 2022 at St. Johns Lutheran Church in Park Rapids.
Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise

Renee Ahmann staged a couple of first-century Bethlehem scenes, including a family home and a village market. Church members brought a wide variety of decorative nativity scenes, creating a display of 57 sets that ran the length of the sanctuary.

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"Market lady" Renee Ahmann staged a family home and a village market as they may have looked in first-century Bethlehem for the Breakfast in Bethlehem event Dec. 3, 2022 at St. Johns Lutheran Church in Park Rapids.
Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise

Other talent on display included a Christmas narrative read by pastors James Neubauer and Larry Harvala, complete with folks in costume acting out the scene. Cheryl Hilgemann played Christmas tunes on the piano while guests found their seats for the free breakfast. Later, Sarah Kaufenberg directed a children’s “kazoo review” as well as a performance of “The Little Drummer Boy” with drumsticks.

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Visitors walk down the center aisle Dec. 3, 2022 at St. Johns Lutheran Church in Park Rapids, viewing the 57 nativity sets that members brought for the church's Breakfast in Bethlehem family event.
Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise

Kaufenberg said the idea with the kazoos was to sing Christmas carols “so if you don’t know the words, you just hum along.”

There was also a craft room set aside for kids.

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This is one of 57 nativity sets that parishioners brought to St. Johns Lutheran Church on Dec. 3, 2022 for a display that ran the length of the nave.
Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise

“I’m just really happy that we’ve had a nice turnout,” said Neubauer. “It’s been fun getting ready, and it’s just wonderful to see all the different talent in the congregation come out, and decorations and everything.”

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Sharing a table during the Breakfast in Bethlehem event Dec. 3, 2022 at St. Johns Lutheran Church in Park Rapids are, clockwise from front left, John and Callie Ricke, Allie and Cory Kimball, Ruby, Lyle and Clyde Kimball, and Thane and Derek Ricke.
Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise
MORE RELATED COVERAGE:
Thousands of people came to Wadena between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day to view the Christmas in Wadena animated light show, with many of them donating to the cause.

Related Topics: CHRISTMASPARK RAPIDS
Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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