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Westhampton church stages ‘playful’ nativity procession

The Three Kings which get moved closer and closer every day to the nativity scene in front of the Westhampton Congregational Church.

The Three Kings which get moved closer and closer every day to the nativity scene in front of the Westhampton Congregational Church. Purchase photo reprints »

WESTHAMPTON — Over the past few weeks, the wooden nativity figures for the creche at the Westhampton Congregational Church on Tob Road have been spotted in yards around town, making the religious display look “a little vacant” in the words of one passerby.

The church has even received a few calls from people wondering if the scattered nativity scene is some sort of prank.

Members of the congregation know that’s not the case. The backyard sightings are part of a two-year-old tradition: a community reenactment of the Biblical journey that Mary and Joseph made to Bethlehem before the birth of Jesus.

“It’s all intentional,” said The Rev. Tad Allman-Morton, pastor of the Westhampton church. “It’s definitely not a prank.”

Church members have volunteered to help the figures of Mary, Joseph, four sheep, three magi, two shepherds and one camel “journey” from a spot on South Road to the creche at the church. A doll representing baby Jesus was placed there on Christmas Eve, Allman-Morton said.

The “travelers” set out on Dec. 2, the first day of Advent. They are due to arrive at the church by Jan. 6, in time for Epiphany, a religious holiday celebrating the visit of the three kings to the infant Jesus in his Bethlehem manger.

Allman-Morton said members of his congregation have been “very playful” in the placement of figures on their way to the creche. One resident installed a “This Way to Bethlehem” yard sign to help guide the procession.

The celebration has been a grassroots effort, Allman-Morton said.

“People have just taken this on. They’ve jumped in and moved things around and been in touch with each other via email,” he said.

Allman-Morton noted that Westhampton’s Advent processional echoes the Latin American holiday of Las Posadas, which features a reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for an inn.

How much further do the nativity figures have to travel before they reach the Westhampton church?

“The three kings are not quite to the creche scene,” Allman-Morton reported earlier this week. “But they’re much closer now.”

Spending votes

Westhampton residents unanimously approved two municipal spending items at a special Dec. 3 Town Meeting.

The approximately 20 citizens in attendance approved a transfer of $6,300 to the town’s veterans account for required assistance to local veterans, They also approved a $70,000 spending request for a handicapped accessible bathroom and ramp for the Town Hall Annex.

Westhampton had applied for a state grant to cover those renovations but the proposal was not approved, said Margaret Parsons, administrative assistant for the town. Based on the vote at Town Meeting, funds from the town’s free cash account will be used for the project — a move recommended by the Finance Committee.

Parsons said renovations planned for the annex are scheduled to begin in March.

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