2020 Annual Business Meeting 

Dec. 3 – 5

in Newport, Rhode Island

Photo above - Newport Mansions - via Discover Newport

Newport, Rhode Island is a nostalgic city by the ocean.  It has long been a center of beauty, education, entertainment, leisure and history.
In Newport, you can enjoy many specialty shops, scenic views, the famous "cliff walks", antiques, et cetera...

It also boasts a great number of wonderful restaurants specializing in seafood prepared in various styles using age old and new recipe creations.

The Newport Mansions are famous all over the world!  They have abundant treasures of art in them that were once available only to the rich and are now able to be viewed and appreciated by one and all...

We will be going to two of the mansions that will be exquisitely decorated by professionals for the Christmas Season.  Visitors have gained many ideas of things that they could do in their own homes and nativity displays from these spectacular demonstrations of visual art that move the soul, heart and senses.

We will also go to Blithewold, a 33-acre summer estate with views of Narragansett Bay. Nationally significant in American history, it is one of the most authentic examples of the Country Place Era, including a 45-room mansion filled with family treasures, and beautiful gardens.

The Shrine of Our Lady of LaSalette has one of the largest displays of Christmas lights in the world. Indeed, anyone that has gone there has been inspired, lifted up, and moved to ponder the Incarnation of the Lord!  They have a great gift shop,  offer religious Christmas concerts, a cafeteria, spiritual direction and Confessions at posted times, and plenty of places to walk around outside to enjoy the mystery of light...just don't forget to dress in layers  In recent years, they have established a creche museum with nativities from all over the world.  Needless to say, one of the private collections of one of our very own FOTC members was recently donated to the Shrine for all to see and enjoy in years to come.
The topics at the meeting will include the Azorean Nativity Tradition, The History, Art, and Drama of the Nativity, the Madeiran Nativity Tradition, and some surprises too.

Our hotel accommodations will be at the Newport Harbor Hotel located conveniently in downtown Newport.  You will be able to enjoy so much on your short walk from the hotel to all of the hustle and bustle of the pre-Christmas Season.

All of these wonders will be a part of our one day FOTC Meeting on Saturday, December 5, 2020. MARK YOUR 2020 CALENDAR NOW!  Consider joining us!  Plan ahead with your own Nativity displays back at home on the first weekend of December of 2020.   

You will NOT want to miss all of these exciting happenings... This will all take place from Thursday, December 3rd, 2020 through Saturday, December 5th, 2020.  See you there...

Father Christopher and Diane Rigo 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Diane Rigo at her email: carve711@aol.com

See below this section for registration

2021 Portland, Oregon Convention

November 3 (pre-Convention Event) 4-5 Convention

Convention Registration Coming Soon.  To assist us please click link above to let us know if you are planning to register.  Include number of people in your party and your desire for room type:  Single King (one or two people). Double Queen (up to 4 people).  Room rates $159 + Tax.

Venue:  First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Portland, Oregon

Hotel:  Radisson Red - Portland, Oregon

Pre-Convention Event - Lincoln City, Oregon (Buses from Radisson to Linconcln City,  500 Nativities on Display, Beach Experience, Christmas Cottage.

During Convention:  Our Lady of Sorrows ("The Grotto") + Multnomah Falls.

Convention Team:

Neil and Nora Allen Convention Chairs

Meg Portwood

Patti Harringer

Audre Bratcher

Holly Zenger

Renae Bushman

Randy Moore

Sydne Jongbloed - Board President

Marylynn Gillespie 

Judy Klein - Board Liaison 

Past Conventions

Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem 

What a great host ye were! 

By Mike Whalen 

As with Monck’s Corner, South Carolina in 2016, Bethlehem (2017) was one of those places Friends of the Creche always wanted to go for a meeting or convention. Both seem to allude us, however, until recently and in the case of Bethlehem mainly through the efforts of Margo Dixon assisted by Dora Davenport, the dream came true in the fall of 2017. 

At first glance, one might think this city which takes its name from a much more famous one in the mid-east, has seen better days. Its charm though soon captured all of us, even the old rusty remains of the Bethlehem steel works that provided the steel for nearly half of America’s high rises. Adjacent to the steel works is the new sprawling casino and shopping mall. Bethlehem, past and present, side by side. 

As with our previous gatherings, the two days prior provided optional excursions to places of interest nearby to creche lovers, The Byer’s Choice factory and museum, Shady Maple super lunch /gift store, the Glencairn Museum and the National Christmas Center all did not disappoint in the least to get us into the mood of what we all love to do and seem, namely learn and view nativities. 

Because of the deeply rooted connections with the Moravian church in the Bethlehem area, many of the talks and events were steeped in learning about their customs, especially involving the Christmas season.  The Moravian star shownbrightly in this firmament and one could go few places with seeing it in some form or another. 

Our lead off speaker spoke on how to make your own star, a simple one of twenty-six points to one of one hundred and ten points and the mathematical calculations needed to attempt that. Thomas McCullough, assistant archivist for the Moravian archives in Bethlehem set the tone by giving the history of the Moravian church in America as well as the tradition of the Moravian star. 

Following Mr. McCullough, Kate Kohen addressed our group about the twenty-year tradition of the Luminaria night in early December when much of the city is lit by thousands of bags filled with sand and a candle. This wonderful tradition was begun by a small group of people in one neighborhood and now provides the funds for an entire ministry dedicated to those seeking to fill common needs such as shelter and a safe haven, very much in keeping with the “Bethlehem stable” connection. 

Wrapping up the morning session, Dave Landis or better described as a Wiseman from the east (appearing in costume), described an even older event, namely the live nativity. This staging of the first Christmas uses the talents and effort of many including the effort to gather the funds needed to pay for it. One such item in the budget is the “animal package” consisting of one cow, one mule, one camel and two sheep and various other costs needed to keep the costumes in decent shape, a working sound system etc. etc. Of course, Mr. Landis had us all laughing about the one participant in the pageant that got away one year and had to be chased down the street. 

In the ballroom, also on display were the works of artists, Michael Palan and Karen Loccisanowho built elaborate detailed Flemish barns that we got a glimpse of last year in South Carolina. They also did a presentation on Saturday of how they collaborate on such a project, 

Of course, running Thursday evening through Saturday, one could find ten plus vendors set up in the room adjacent selling all manner of nativities from the world over, both commercially made and made one by one by hand. This is always a high light of any convention and eagerly awaited by our members. 

Also, in a room nearby Michael Stump showed several elaborately detailed presepiand was on hand to answer questions about his creation. Outside in the hallway was a backdrop of shepherds heading for the stable in which registrants were encouraged to be photographed making them appear to be joining them to seek the newly born Child, which we all truly are at least spiritually. 

The highlight of the convention for many was the short trip to the Moravian church in Nazareth for a Love Feast. Many wondered exactly what that was and all soon discovered that it was basically their candlelight service done on Christmas eve. This festive event staged early for our benefit included singing the wonderful carol, “Morning Star,” as well as other traditional other carols familiar to almost all of us. We were then served a sweet cake and some coffee and lit our candles as the light of Christ slowly spread through the congregation. The choir along with instruments indeed made it a reverent as well as joyful occasion. 

Prior to the service, we were served a wonderful meal in the downstairs hall made by the members of the community. See the menu card pictured in the centerfold of this issue as well as some other wonderful moments from the “Love Feast.” 

Another highlight of the same evening was viewing of the Putz, set up each year with great loving care by the community. Basically, it is the story of salvation with lights and music. A husband and wife team were on hand to answer questions about the tradition both before and after dinner as well as hosts during the supper itself. 

Saturday provided more opportunities to stuff our suitcases with more things from the Manger Mart as well as hear Michael Palan and Karen Loccisanodescribe more in detail about how they get inspiration for their work and what is involved in the detailed work they do. The piece on display depicted a creche maker’s workshop with several tiny creches within the piece itself. The intricate work in creating a crib builder's workshop area in various stages of the creative process was simply stunning. 

Carol Reifinger, a retired pastor of the Central Moravian church in Bethlehem, closed the formal presentations with the opportunity for all make a Moravian star as a souvenir of the convention.  

Friends of the Creche closed our gathering as always with the announcements of the winners of the silent auction. This year's most coveted item appeared to be a set of hand painted nativity made from Dutch, wooden shoes (see picture in centerfold). 

Rose Fremerthen tickled the ivories in the lobby of the hotel for our usual carol sing prior to the final night banquet where some old friends had the opportunity to meet some new ones. A good time was had by all. 

A Houston look back

The hurricane clouds were swirling off the southern coast of the Mexican peninsula, but inside the Sheraton north hotel in Houston, Texas things were well underway to host Friends of the Creche eighth convention last October. Lovers of the nativity tradition from far and wide arrived in Houston to once again learn about and share the fellowship with other fellow collectors as well as the warm welcome served up by our hosts along with the barbecue. 

The early arrivals had a chance to discover the historic painted churches of Texas built by immigrants mostly from Germany and Czechoslovakia to the area nearly one hundred plus years prior. This pre tour did not disappoint in that one felt transported to a different place and time considering where these churches are located, basically in the middle of nowhere, no disrespect intended to a state as big as Texas.

The artistic detail of the ceiling and wall paintings, the historic statuary and the great care and love given to the preservation of these churches made for a very nice day along with a lunch served in an open garden adjacent to one of the churches.  

The following day, those so choosing headed to the historic seaside area known as Galveston, itself a victim of a horrific hurricane in 1910, resulting in thousands lost due to poor early warning back then.

The famous Galveston Strand gave visitors two opportunities to add to their collections, namely in a Christmas shop and just down the street in the Hendley market selling nativities from the four corners of the world along with tea and cookies bearing a stable scene of course. On the return, a home tour of one of the conventions chairpersons, Audrey Pratt was featured to see her personal collection all beautifully displayed making use of every nook and cranny. A stop to the store ran by Brookwood community home gave members a chance to add one more crèche to their suitcase and benefited a worthwhile cause about which we heard during one of the talks on Friday at the convention.

Music, and more music opened and was heard throughout the convention. What better way to set the tone of a southwest convention than a mariachi band all from one family to welcome us to Houston.

The guitars and trumpets echoed down the halls calling all to the manger of the Christ Child as those gathered sampled some of the tastes of Texas. On Friday morning, reveille was the Praise Singers of the Fallbrook Baptist church who have taken the adage, “to sing is to pray twice “truly to heart. Now with convention goers awakened, Raul Ponce described in detail the wonderful southwestern tradition of Los Pastores which is the reenactment of the angels call to the shepherds to the stable in Bethlehem. David McBroom, better known as the cowboy poet, treated all in attendance to a display of his mastery of self-written verse, reflecting his own life experiences and how God has been present there.  The morning concluded with Ellen Mintz describing the many ways of storing and caring for our crèche collections. For those who were unable to attend the convention, you may find a few of these tips elsewhere in this edition of the Creche Herald, courtesy of Ellen. After lunch, Luke Ellis from the Brookwood Community home spoke on how one small community has made such a difference in the lives of many people with mental and physical limitations as a follow up to our visit made the previous day to their store in old town Spring, Texas. To wind down a wonderful day, Jennifer Leadbetter left us all in stitches with her alphabetical collection of the many contributions Mexico, Spain, France, and assorted other peoples have made to the culture of Texas, including the crèche of course.

Saturday’s events began with non-other than our co-chair and newly elected Vice-President Judy Klein demonstrating the many simple but very attractive ways of displaying our nativity sets as she has done at her Gallery house called Bethlehem in Denton County, that was feature in our magazine in the spring 2015 edition. Next and very much in keeping with the planning for the convention of offering thoughtful topics along with lighter and entertaining ones, Sherri Snedecor, an accomplished vocalist sang some familiar and some new selections we associate with the birth of Christ and did so beautifully. After lunch, Sherrie Lewis described how many of the customs associated with Christmas are often taken for granted and very much rooted in the birth of Christ but have become secularized over the years. To conclude the formal program, a children’s author, Karen Carson read her moving story of how the meaning of Christmas is often missed through the forest of Christmas trees and we were left singing just as we started with the Texas Children’s Choir from Spring Baptist Church. The Lone Star concluded as always with the gala banquet featuring tables decorated with mason jars representing that all-important Texan garden, yellow roses, blue bells and naturally a lone star.  The Statesmen, an all-male singing group concluded both the evening and the convention and reminded all that the stars do really shine big and bright deep in the heart of Texas, just not this night with the approaching tropical storm. (MW)

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