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Town of Hepburn to offer hope in the time of Coronavirus

The town of Hepburn will turn into one big stage
A nearby town north of Saskatoon will re-enact the story of the first Christmas.

SASKATOON — Rekindling hope during the time of the COVID-19 global pandemic is one reason why a local church in the town of Hepburn has chosen to re-enact the story of the first Christmas.

The Hepburn Mennonite Brethren Church is inviting everyone from nearby towns and villages to come and see their two-day “Journey Through Christmas” show set at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10 and 11 (Friday and Saturday) in their town that’s 48 kilometres north of Saskatoon and about a 40-minute drive.

Rod Schellenberg of the Hepburn Mennonite Brethren Church said they started the show last year as the pandemic forced them to have a creative way of celebrating the Christmas season.

“Amid the loneliness and discouragement of the pandemic, we simply wanted to bring a little light into people's lives,” he said. “The story of the first Christmas is about hope in the darkness, and so we thought: why not share the story of Jesus' birth? We had to be creative: how can we do something that keeps everyone safe and still puts a smile on people's faces? Outdoors! Where everyone can come as families and stay in their own car and hear the story told on a soundtrack.”

The show retelling the events of Jesus’s birth will have lots of lights, animals and actors in costume, including a real blacksmith.

Schellenberg added those who are going to watch the show will feel something different.

“You get to feel a part of the story as you drive around town. What we don't realize often is that the first Christmas happened in a small town — probably even smaller than Hepburn. It was just ordinary people on an ordinary night.

“So, you get to drive through a market where people are doing business, cross a dark field and find a few shepherds huddled around a fire trying to keep warm, turn the corner and (surprise) see angels dancing, and then arrive at a small stable with a couple and a newborn. There's something different about that: you're immersed, not just watching on a stage.”

The show earned positive feedback from the people who came to watch last year and what makes it extra special is they are collecting food donations to help families in need.

“So many people appreciated just having something that felt like Christmas in such a discouraging year. Some were quite emotional about how it affected them. People also loved that it felt safe to do,” said Schellenberg.

“And by bringing a food donation to help needy families, everyone felt they were participating in something good. We've had overwhelming response already this year, the fact that we sold out both nights in less than 48 hours says something. That’s 500 cars [approximately] 2,000 people in little Hepburn and the waitlist keeps growing. So, we're very excited as we prepare.”

Schellenberg said they will follow the same protocols they had last year.

“Last year, we liaised with local health officials to make sure we follow all provincial guidelines in place at the time. We'll be doing the same this year,” he said. “It's really important to us that this is a safe and enjoyable way for everyone to experience the Christmas story."

For example: online registration, contactless drop-off for food donations, and safe outdoor physical distancing (everyone stays in their cars).

Ticket registration is per vehicle and not per person, and each person can register a maximum of two vehicles per night. Registration for the tickets can be made at