Houston, Texas 2015
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)