EASTCHESTER, N.Y. — The Eastchester Community Church brought the nativity to life Sunday morning as live animals marched down the main aisle of the church to the singing and chanting of parishioners dressed as angels, shepherds and kings.
This is the sixth year the church, 11 Woodlot Road, Eastchester, has hosted a live nativity on its premises, though this is the first year it has been inside the church. Two sheep and a donkey named Dominic were led inside by costumed church community members during the 45-minute presentation. The animal’s handlers were on hand to ensure no harm came to the animals or actors.
“We are a society of seeing,” said the Rev. Eric Hall, the church's pastor. “Movies, music, theater — they all touch our soul when we see them. The idea here was to do the same with gospels, to really make them come alive. Doing this makes it more real — it’s suddenly not just about hearing, but experiencing.”
The show also had a practical application, as the actors portraying the three kings took up a collection from those in attendance. According to Hall, all proceeds from the live nativity shows will be used to help the less fortunate during the holiday season.
The parish began preparing for its performances about a month ago, beginning with the construction of its 10-foot-by-6-foot-sized sable Nov. 3. Fake hay bales were placed inside the stable, and hay scattered throughout the main and side aisles of the church helped set the atmosphere for the animals that would be marching through the building during the performance.
“I've done it for the past six years,” said Steve Roberts, a longtime parishioner of Eastchester Community Church. “People love this — they come in the snow, the rain, whatever. It really brings people together. I’m glad this year though we are having it inside so we don’t have to wear overcoats under our costumes.
“This is something that I've been doing since I was in third grade,” said Matt Roberts, Steve Roberts’s son and an 18-year-old freshman at SUNY Oneonta. “Every year, it just becomes a more spiritual event — I don’t even have to consider why I’m doing it. More importantly, it’s great to have the community come out and to be able to affect them in such a profound way.”