Interfaith Christmas celebration chalks up another success


A stake in Temecula, California, held a Christmas event with the hopes of bringing the spirit of Christ into the community. According to volunteers and attendees, their mission was accomplished.

The Temecula California Stake sponsored its annual Community Nativity Festival on the evenings of Dec. 12 and 13 by transforming their Pauba Road meetinghouse into First Century Bethlehem complete with actors in vintage period dress.

Highlighted by a live Nativity, the night included a walk down the streets of Jerusalem, a shepherds’ room with live angelic refrain, more than 600 Nativity presentations from around the world, free refreshments and numerous performing groups from surrounding communities.

The Temecula Rose Society displayed more than 50 Nativity scenes on both nights of the event. Rebecca Weersing, current owner of the collection, oversaw the exhibit and explained that the Nativity scenes were being displayed in honor of the late Temecula Rose Society members and philanthropists, Bill and Kathy Scheuffler.

“In their world travels, they collected a Nativity scene from every place they visited,” she said. “I am honored to display them at this very wonderful event. The community spirit of Christmas is very important so I appreciated being here with my family.”

Lorraine Fritch said, “Tonight I saw Nativity scenes from all over the world and they’re amazing,” she said. “They can be made from cornhusks, fine porcelain or olivewood and it just shows the universality of the Christmas message.”

Performing groups included Vintage Hills Elementary School’s Vintage Voices, Temecula Strings Youth Orchestra, Girls of Destiny, Kid Carolers, Temecula Strings Youth and Children’s Choirs, Temecula Barbershop, Great Oak High School Singers, Hallelujah Chorus, Temecula Valley High School Glee Club, De Hesa Charter School Chorus, Temecula Valley Children’s Chorus, Showbiz Kids from Paloma Elementary School, two St. Martha’s performers; the Winter Berries and the Candy Cane Choir, the Festival Youth Choir, finalists from the Boys and Girls Club and Fox TV’s X-Factor finalist, Julia Lucius.

St. Martha’s groups have performed at every Nativity Festival since 2003 with a running total of 12 performances to date. “The spirit of Christmas is all different groups of people coming together,” said director Rhonda Parrish. “It doesn’t matter if you are Catholic or Mormon, or any other religion, this festival is an interfaith celebration to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior.”

Recruited by his LDS students at Temecula Valley High School, Clinton White agreed to share his gift by singing in the Shepherds’ room. While performing, he was discovered by program coordinators and was asked to sing in the main program. “I love the Lord,” he said. “The birth of Christ is so special so singing like this is something I am willing and happy to do.” White expressed his amazement that so many people gave up their free time to produce the amazing event. “I feel privileged to have been a part of all this,” he said.

Living in Temecula since 1988 and now president of the Temecula California Stake, Tracy Ham expressed his thanks to the volunteers who donated countless hours to produce the successful event. “I cannot thank everyone enough,” he said. “I appreciate each and every person in the community who work so hard to bring the spirit of Christ into Christmas.”

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