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‘Meet me at the Manger’ draws outdoor gathering for scripture and song in blustery Bethany Beach

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"Meet Me at the Manger" in Bethany Beach on Dec. 5. Dialog photo/Michael Short

BETHANY BEACH — About two dozen people braved a chilly, windy Saturday to Meet at the Manger on Dec. 5.

“Meet Me at the Manger” is an annual celebration of scripture and song held in front of a small Nativity on the grounds of the Bethany Beach Christian Church. The Southeast Sussex County Ministerium, a group of some 13 local churches of different denominations, hosts the event.

This year’s event seemed to be especially important as local churches try to lift the spirits of congregants burdened by a challenging year.

“I think we all needed a ray of hope and promise this year,” said Sister Loretta Primus of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Bethany Beach. Sister Loretta is the current president of the ministerium.

“It is just good to be with brothers and sisters,” said Terry Dougherty, who serves as chaplain of the ministerium and pastor of Ocean View Presbyterian Church.

“It is always an inspiration to me to see our churches come together and pray together,” said Sister Loretta.

“South East Sussex Ministerium is a community of believers of one heart and mind who bear witness to God’s Good News by our common effort to support one another in prayer, in joint initiatives and in providing for the needs of the most vulnerable among us,” according to the group’s mission statement.

“Today, we’ve gathered together to celebrate the birth of the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings, the birth of God himself incarnate, the birth of God in human flesh, as his called, chosen and faithful followers, so let’s begin by calling together God’s people, joyfully and triumphantly, all of God’s people, by singing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” read the first speaker Tish Galu.

The audience sang carols and listened to readings as a small group of singers and musicians from  the St. Ann’s Contemporary Music Ensemble played beside the manger.

The audience wore masks and bundled up in coats and scarves against a brisk wind while traffic rolled past a few yards away on Route 1.

They ended the music with “Auld Lang Syne” as Dougherty said, “we remember the times we have, with both our new bonds of friendship in Christian love and those long-standing friendships, but particularly the one who loves us with an everlasting love, the one who took off the robes of heaven and put on the skin of man, to offer us eternity with him, our Lord and Savior Jesus.”

The script called for people to join hands, but Dougherty quickly changed that, a reminder of the challenges of 2020.

Pastor Eloise Gordy of Zoar United Methodist Church delivered the message. Gordy told the audience that Christmas is a time to pause, breathe and reflect on the meaning of Christmas, while laying aside the more commercial aspects of the holiday season.

“It was no ordinary night. It was no ordinary parents, no ordinary birth. It was certainly no ordinary child,” she said.

She then read her own version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, changing it to “The Night Before Jesus” and telling the story of those who are ready for the second coming of the Lord.