by Dr. Andrea Rowbottom
The Nativity pageant “On the Way to Bethlehem” has become an annual tradition in the town of Milton, although it does attract visitors from many parts of Ontario. The pageant is the major project of Milton Area Christian Churches Working Together. We are now preparing ourselves for “On the Way to Bethlehem”, 2019, our 18th year. This three night performance is staged at the historic Country Heritage Park, Milton, regardless of the weather. The rural setting of the park with its dirt roadways and rustic buildings provides an ideal setting to “journey to Bethlehem.”
This year I wish to honour the full 18 years of participation to the Rev. Dr. Mark McDermott.
To quote Mark, “Andrea Rowbottom ran past me in the summer of 2002 her idea for the Walk to Bethlehem, and I thought it a super idea! I have been participating in the walk virtually every year with participants from every congregation in Milton.
“My private joke is — if it is cold and dark and I am walking dressed in strange clothing, with sheep bleating in the background, it must be late November and I am in the Walk to Bethlehem.
“I have had a variety of roles over the years as we reenact the Christmas story. For the past few years I have been the Grouchy Innkeeper, who turns all the pilgrims away with my stern ‘No room for you people here’ gig.
“I must confess I play it strictly for laughs and it is received as such (‘Shalom to you, too!’) though occasionally I make a small child cry (King Herod and I compete as to how many children we can make cry tonight, but parents always assure the poor child that the man isn’t actually being nasty, just being silly!
“My inn is a few stops away from the Nativity scene, which is always the last stop on the journey. And though participants enjoy the various stations along the journey, invariably this is the scene they like the best — and rightly so! The dark barn with a few farm animals munching away quietly and the Holy Family silently and reverently sitting is overwhelmingly glorious and moving, to the point of tears. And Baby Jesus is a real baby, not a doll. One of my granddaughters was the baby her first year and I was very honoured. The Walk to Bethlehem is a great event! After all it is modelled on God’s own story! It still gets rave reviews.”
I am honoured and blessed to have Father Mark as a key member of the cast (now numbering about 200).
Originally, Mark was the first Magi in Herod’s Court — stately and majestic; secondly, he was King Herod himself — stern and brooding; presently, he is the first innkeeper — the one people are anxious hear his lines (not necessarily in the script) “I suppose you are tired and hungry and you would love a lovely turkey dinner — well it’s not going to happen!” For a couple of years Christmas Carols were reenacted for the visitors as they waited entry to the pageant. Father Mark was a perfect Good King Wenceslas trudging through the depths of snow (that barely covered the ground). A man of many talents!
We invite you to come and experience “On the Way to Bethlehem” Friday, Nov. 29, Saturday, Nov. 30 and Sunday, Dec.1 6:30 – 8:30 pm each night at Country Heritage Park, Milton. Won’t you journey with us to Bethlehem! Visit our web site at onthewaytobethlehem.ca.