The Journey

By Willa Wick in Community, People, Places, Events, & History

Would you like to immerse yourself in a time warp and travel back many years to experience the existence, sounds, and smells as life would have been 2000 years ago? While it sounds pretty far- fetched, that’s exactly what you can look forward to during the upcoming pre-Christmas weekend.
Program organizers from the Listowel Mennonite Church were looking for a new twist to the traditional Sunday School Concert. Through the Christian Education Ministry they were rewarded with a book which outlined the Journey and the Marketplace. From there everything mushroomed. The coordinator reproduced the lengthy dialogue and made a complete copy for everyone on the committee. As they read through the pages, which listed all the characters and support staff required, the words “car parkers” surfaced. “Car Parkers?” the members questioned, “How many are you expecting?” “Oh, about 250”. “Two hundred and fifty!!” was the unified and unbelieving response from the planners. Little did they know then the magnitude of their future event.
It was September. There were no costumes, no props, no lines memorized – just enthusiasm and an energetic aura anticipating the journey and marketplace for the Sunday before Christmas. It was a large cast and costumes were fashioned from all available surplus material – curtains, towels, bed sheets, tablecloths etc. As long as they portrayed the character that was all that was necessary for that one year, the 1993 production. Who would have known they would still be using those same costumes 20
years later!
The date was set – the weekend before Christmas was chosen because by then most shopping, parties and dances are over and it wouldn’t conflict with other venues.
Props and murals were painted on cardboard or bale tarps for canvas. ‘Behind the pulpit’ and Sunday School murals were taken out of storage, and with a little tweaking to the scenery, were used as backdrops for this new endeavor.
The Advent Journey Marketplace was scheduled for the Sunday afternoon and evening before Christmas. It was soon evident that the event had attracted far more attention than ever anticipated. ‘The Journey’ was so well received that visitors were lined up at the door and many had to be turned away from the afternoon performance. Everyone was so enthusiastic that plans had to be altered at the last minute and The Journey was repeated on Monday and Tuesday evenings as well.
Each year the program was enhanced with new ideas for props, and actors became more comfortable in their role.
The Market Place is great for kids and a terrific congregational mix as they all work and pull together to make things so “real”. It’s a big commitment for the performers, but it’s also a great learning experience provided to the community.
As you enter the church you are met by a greeter who takes outerwear (it’s very warm in the Marketplace). Visitors are seated in the sanctuary in rows for the tour groups of 12 – 15 people. Winter clothing is hung by the greeter in designated areas to coincide with the seating (so it is important not to “jump” tour groups, or searching for a coat at the end becomes a problem.) It is wise not to carry bulky items such as purses which will be cumbersome while in the Marketplace.
Each Journey starts with story-telling giving the background to what it was like 2000 years ago. The group is then introduced to a Centurion who guides the tour to the various rooms and introduces the biblical characters (Isaiah, Mary, Elizabeth, Census Taker) who in turn explain their role in “the greatest story ever told”. The group then stops at the Inn for a quick refreshment while each is given a bag of 50 coins. The Inn Keeper describes how busy and lively you will find the city of Bethlehem because everyone is here to pay their taxes. All the housing is full and no more rooms are available.
As the Marketplace is approached the group is stopped at the gate by the Tax Collector. The coins are part of the taxes you must pay to enter the marketplace.
The actual marketplace is astounding. There are vendors all around the street (and every marketplace has its derelicts and beggars). Each vendor or tradesman is working on his own craft and little gifts may be purchased. What is made during one performance is stockpiled and distributed during the next.
There are many different vendors – Carpenter, Candy Shop, Spice and Herb Shop, Weaving, Pottery, Rope Making, Baking – and at each shop you barter for the goods with the coins that were provided. On an old fashioned roll the Scribe will enter your name in Hebrew. The market vendors have no script; it’s all ad lib with the visitors. The more the shoppers engage in the bartering the more fun it becomes for everyone.
After about 15 minutes in the Marketplace shopping, your Centurion guide will direct you to the shepherds foretelling their amazing story. The pinnacle moment of the journey is the nativity scene with Shepherds, Joseph, Mary, and the Baby along with live sheep and a donkey.
The whole experience is very emotional as it takes one back to the time when Christ was born complete with sights, smells, and drama as your journey unfolds.
Listowel Mennonite Church
465 Maitland Ave., S., Listowel, Ont.
Indoor Guided Walking Tours

Friday, Dec. 20th,2013
Tours begin at 7pm, last tour at 9pm
Saturday, Dec. 21st, 2013
Tours begin at 7pm, last tour at 9pm
Sunday, Dec. 22nd, 2013
Tours begin at 2pm,last tour 4:30
Tours begin at 7pm, last tour at 9pm

The Marketplace Potter explains his trade

The Marketplace Potter explains his trade

Spice & Herb Shop in the Bethlehem Marketplace

Spice & Herb Shop in the Bethlehem Marketplace

Manger Scene with Listowel Mennonite Church players

Manger Scene with Listowel Mennonite Church players

The Innkeepers staff preparing refreshments for visitors

The Innkeepers staff preparing refreshments for visitors

Every Marketplace has it beggars

Every Marketplace has it beggars

The Bethlehem Marketplace is a busy spot before Christmas

The Bethlehem Marketplace is a busy spot before Christmas