Volunteer Jeff Poulsen touches up the facade for The Journey of Christmas.

Sharing the traditional side of Christmas

The Journey of Christmas returns to South Surrey's St. Mark's Anglican Church.

Many people put up Christmas lights and displays at this time of year, but the Journey of Christmas – the annual outdoor multimedia display at St. Mark’s Anglican Church, 12953 10 Ave. – tends to outdo all of them in both scope and depth of meaning.

Indeed, as St. Mark’s event publicist Brian Walks notes, people of faith now make “an annual pilgrimage from as far away as Coquitlam, Chilliwack and Vancouver” to see the nine dioramas featuring life-sized mannequins depicting Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, the three kings and all the other key figures in the biblical story of Jesus’ birth.

The Journey of Christmas – now in its 15th year – will open for the public again Dec. 15 to Dec. 27, 6-9 p.m. (except for Dec. 22 and Christmas Day, Dec. 25).

Admission by donation includes the 22-minute journey – a guided tour of the outside dioramas – followed by hot chocolate and cookies to take off the wintry chill, and a varied line-up of entertainment in the parish hall.

Walks says that larger displays around the Lower Mainland tend to have a limited life, but the Journey of Christmas has endured to become a bona fide tradition, partly due to a keen volunteer crew from the congregation which works year-round to restore and renew the display, which now features a welcoming facade and music and a sophisticated soundtrack.

“One of our committee called the Journey of Christmas a gift to the community – we’ve been financially self-sustaining for a number of years now.”

And Walks takes pride in assembling the outstanding nightly live entertainment program, which this year begins with the piano/vocal duo of June Gauntley and Holly Bear Tanksley (wife of pastor Craig) on Dec. 15.

“Last year June was playing piano and Holly joined her for a few numbers – and I thought ‘I’ve got to hook these people up for next year’.”

The teen singers of the White Rock Children’s Choir organization (Dec. 16) will be followed by two other youth performers, flautists Angela Chu and Cindy Yen, outstanding competitors out of some 7,000 who participated in this year’s Kiwanis Festival (Dec. 17).

Christmas caroling and anthems with St. Mark’s Choir (Dec. 18) will be followed by an evening of singing with local Beavers, Cubs and Scouts on Dec. 19, while the Domaren Consort recorder group will play Christmas music on Dec. 20.

Rounding out the program is the ever-popular Fraser Valley Gilbert & Sullivan Society singers (Dec. 21); Pauline Turnham, piano (Dec. 22); and tenor Christopher Simmons, and sopranos Debra Da Vaughn and Vanessa Coley-Donohue offering a selection of Christmas favourites on Dec. 23).

Christmas Eve services will take place Dec. 24 at 5 p.m. (for children), 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. (candlelight service).

For more information about The Journey of Christmas, call 604-535-8841.

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