UCPC shares life-size nativity

Union Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Farragut once again is pointing to the true “reason for the season” with a life-sized nativity scene.

A manger/barn backdrop houses Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, while shepherds and wise men gather close to the scene on the church grounds, located at the intersection of Everett and Smith roads.

“It’s a service for the community,” said church pastor, the Rev. Leonard Turner, who is celebrating his 50th anniversary with Union Cumberland Presbyterian this year.

Turner said the church has a long-standing tradition of life-size nativity scenes, beginning with a live one enacted several decades ago near Willow Creek Golf Course.

“We had real people, real sheep and real donkeys,” he recalled. “The men of the church grew beards for it, and I still have mine.”

Eventually, the live re-enactments gave way to the display the church currently offers, after being inspired by a similar display in a neighboring state.

“My wife and I were visiting Alabama near Christmas time, and it was raining,” Turner said. “We saw what I thought was a live nativity at a Methodist church, and I said, ‘Look at those crazy Methodists standing out in the rain.’ We looked closer and realized, the ‘people’ were made and not real.

“I went down there and asked if they minded if we copied what they had done, and they agreed, and drew out for us how to make (it).”

Turner said the scene has evolved over the years, and the church was able to add mannequins when some local stores went out of business.

“We have a young man, Jimmy Green, who redoes the faces and paints them to make them look more realistic. Then the ladies of the church keep up with all the clothes, making sure they always look new and fresh.”

The scene is central to the church’s 6 p.m. Christmas Eve service — if the weather cooperates.

“If the weather isn’t too bad, we go outside and stand around it, holding (electric) candles,” he said.

“It is what Christmas is all about.”