Bunbury Church hosts rare interactive Christmas program

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Credit: Oakley Chatman

Mother and daughter duo Karen and Madison Booth navigated tricky COVID-19 restrictions to host one of the only interactive Christmas programs by an Adventist church on December 21st. Restrictions had already forced the cancellation of numerous Road to Bethlehem programs, which attracted thousands of nightly visitors in previous years.

Karen, a member of Bunbury Seventh-day Adventist church, reflected on her own unease about running the second edition of her church’s program entitled “Gold, Frankincense and More.”

Credit: Oakley Chatman

“We weren’t sure at all if we were going to be able to do it. We had about four or five plans depending on the restrictions. We had plans to continue the program but do it in another way. We were thankful to go ahead pretty much as normal,” she said.

The program first ran in 2019 when Madison Booth, 16, visited an Easter story musical in Perth with some friends. She credits this to inspiring her to run a Christmas program in her local area. “I really enjoyed it,” she said. “They had a really good turnout. I started wondering if that was something we could do in Bunbury to give something to people down here who can’t drive two hours to Perth.”

With an online ticketing system, hand sanitiser and QR codes ready, guests were ushered through by a local church volunteers acting as beggars and Roman centurions—until they reached a Bethlehem market set.

Credit: Oakley Chatman

The visitors then witnessed a play in the main church, where cast members interacted with the audience. Out of 135 registered tickets, 130 arrived to take part in the event. Karen cites the support of her local church with helping her reach the community.

“We had a lot of church folk that registered who happily give up their tickets if a visitor needed them. That sort of support was lovely as well; lovely to know they were understanding our vision,” she said.

Credit: Oakley Chatman

With limited time to market the event, Karen sent an email out midweek to volunteers to help distribute postcards in the community. Not expecting any interest, she instead found a few helpers from an unlikely source. “We had one young mum with her two small kids who were involved in the play, and they walked a couple of streets as far as their little legs could take them and letterboxed for us,” she said. “And one other mum and her son as well were both involved in the play.”

Visitors at Gold, Frankincense and More were given a gift bag at the conclusion of the event, featuring Hope Channel Discovery course flyers, December editions of Signs of the Times, glow tracts and even seed packets for gardening. Karen expressed the importance of keeping the event true to its roots.

“Being a small church we’re trying to keep it simple so the message shines through and so that we can manage it obviously. But we do like to make things better each year. We would love to get an animal farm [in 2021]; a petting zoo kind of thing with sheep. We’d love to have a camel.”

In both editions of the event, Karen and Madison were supported by Livingston Seventh-day Adventist church’s Road to Bethlehem team, who generously loaned costumes.