Living Christmas Tree debuts tonight|First Church of Christ continues Christmas tradition

Published 9:25 am Friday, December 11, 2009

Lifestyles & Features Editor

It took 200 people, approximately 10,000 lights and countless man hours, but this year’s Living Christmas Tree at First Church of Christ in Washington is ready for tonight’s debut.
The production will be presented through Sunday beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the church’s Family Life Center. Prelude music begins at 7 p.m. nightly.
“This year’s program is ‘A Baby Changes Everything,’” said Steve Hill, the church’s senior minister and the production’s director. “It’s a new program that we’ve never done and the setting is the first century, the week that Jesus was born.”
Along with those working behind the scenes, this weekend’s program features 85 singers and 15 actors, Hill said. They range in age from 8 weeks to 80 years old, the youngest being the babies who portray the Baby Jesus in the nativity scenes. In that role this year are Emma Miller Buchannan, Kaycee Craig, Charlie Switzer and Kerrigan Arnold.
“Because it is a huge undertaking, the congregation is asked if they want to continue this ministry by signing on for all the different committees,” Hill said. “This year was a resounding ‘yes.’”
The Living Christmas Tree was first presented in 1988, and since a few years were skipped, this year’s production is the 18th one.
Tim Emanuel, a tenor in the choir, has never missed a show.
“I think it brings a large part of our congregation together,” Emanuel said. “We get to know each other intimately for three months while we’re preparing for this, and we all work together to accomplish the same goal.”
Often, the production turns out to be a tradition among families in the church. For example, this year Ed and Janet Mercer, their son Adam Waters and their grandson Evan Waters are all in the cast, Hill said.
On a poignant note, two lights will be lit this weekend in memory of two cast members, Mike Poorman and Billy Waters, who passed away during the past year, Hill said.
Preparations for the program begin during the summer when a theme is chosen, and the choir and actors start rehearsing in September. The multi-tiered tree goes up in November and scenery construction also begins then, according to Hill.
In addition to Hill, others heading up the preparations are choir director Sherry Hill and drama director Andrew Duncan. Also involved are members of the youth choirs and those who take responsibility for audio, lighting, video, parking, ushering, nursery and scenery.
It’s a lot of hard work, but the Living Christmas Tree is important to the church and the Washington area, Hill said.
“We think it has become a tradition for our community. The first time we hadn’t presented the program, people missed it,” he said. “First Church wants to offer a program for the whole family as our gift. We want people in the area not only to enjoy a wonderful evening, but receive the message that ‘A Baby Changes Everything.’ It is our hope that our community will accept our invitation.”
First Church of Christ is located at 520 East Tenth Street in Washington.