Creche project part of Bethlehem celebrations

Published January 1, 2000

This creche from India will appear in the Bethlehem Peace Museum, opening in early January, featuring one of the world’s largest displays of creches.

There are nearly 80 of them, made of many different materials: rubber, marble or even silver. Every one of them portrays the tender scene – mother, father and child – at Jesus’ birth 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem, according to Gospel accounts. And all will make up one of the world’s largest displays of creches when the Bethlehem Peace Museum opens in early January.

This ambitious project was launched in 1996 by the Anglican Consultative Council, through the Compass Rose Society, as part of the Anglican Communion’s contribution toward the renovation of Bethlehem in preparation for a year-long millennium celebration there. Working with planners funded by the Swedish government, the Anglican Communion will furnish the museum, located in Manger Square near the Church of the Nativity, which commemorates Jesus’ birthplace.

The creches have been collected over the past two years by bishops and their spouses around the world. “It has been such a satisfying project,” said Barbara Payne, wife of Bishop Claude Payne of the Diocese of Texas. As the head collector of creches for the project, she sent letters to the wives of the primates who attended the Lambeth Conference in 1998, seeking as wide a response as possible. She followed that this year with letters to the spouse of every bishop in the Anglican Communion. The idea was to collect one creche from each country in the Anglican Communion, she said.

“We received so many, and they’re so different from each other. One woman sent a sterling silver one from the Philippines, the creche from Uganda was made of hand-carved ebony, and a creche sent from England is peopled with characters from the Canterbury Tales,” she said.

While all of the contributions have been welcome, Payne said, some were more touching than others. “We received one from every country in the Episcopal Church,” she noted. “Even Honduras, with all of its problems in recovering from Hurricane Mitch, shipped a creche along with someone who happened to be travelling to the Diocese of Texas.” According to Mrs. Payne, only three countries in the entire Anglican Communion declined to participate in the project.


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