Christmas panorama returns to Old Ford

Published 12:22 am Wednesday, December 7, 2011

In costume for the Old Ford Church of Christ’s Christmas panorama are (from left) Avery Bowen, Megan Barr and Alex Bowen. The panorama begins tonight and runs through Friday. (WDN Photo/Kevin Scott Cutler)

OLD FORD — A Beaufort County holiday tradition returns this evening when the Old Ford Church of Christ presents its “The Birth & Life of Christ” Christmas panorama.

The event, open to the public, continues nightly through Friday from 7 to 9 p.m.

“We’re just trying to get out the message of Christ. … That’s our main goal,” said longtime church member Phillip Matkins. “Our objective for doing this is for people to know Christ.”

Matkins, who heads the church’s building and grounds committee, was among those busy Monday setting up for the panorama, which he said began in 1994. The church has presented the drive-through panorama every year since, except for 2010. Its return is generating interest in the Christian community.

In past years, as many as 1,000 automobiles have visited the panorama during its three-night run, Matkins said.

“A lot of people come through here every year,” he added. “We’ve had a big response to it, we really have. People are hungry for the gospel.”

The panorama follows the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through 17 different scenes, each featuring Biblical characters portrayed by church members. Overseeing the planning and construction of the scenery is Al Cutler, Matkins said.

“He knows where everything goes. … He sets up a lot of the stuff,” Matkins said Monday afternoon during a brief break from the work. “He ramrods the whole thing.”

But it isn’t a one-man show. Matkins estimated that more than 150 members of the Old Ford congregation would appear in costume at some point during the three-night presentation. And that doesn’t count the men who set up the scenery nor the women who prepare supper each night for the actors.

Matkins himself expects to don a beard and take his place in one of the scenes. In fact, three generations of his family will be represented this year, including his daughter and son-in-law and his grandchildren, Emma, Riley, Cameron and Latham.

Members of the Old Ford congregation ranging in age from preschoolers to senior citizens appear in the various scenes.

“Our job of being a Christian is to get the message of Christ out to the people,” Matkins said. “That’s what the Old Ford Church of Christ wants to do. … If we don’t do that, we haven’t done our job.”

Those attending the panorama are asked to enter and exit at the rear of the church on N.C. Highway 171. Attendants will be on hand to direct traffic and greet visitors.

For more information, call 252-946-5883.