October 21, 2021

Virgil teens give Nativity new life

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

From left, Jazmin Barber, 17, Emily Price, 13, Alex Seng, 16, Lia Barber, 12 and Hayley Greene, 12, stand Wednesday among a Nativity they helped refurbish at Virgil United Methodist Church.

VIRGIL — Jazmin Barber got a good scare when the lamb she was carrying lost its head.

And then there was the camel.

“Both of the ears fell off its head,” said the 17-year-old.

She and a group of teens were in the midst of refurbishing a Nativity set that had been buried in the church garage for decades.

The group of 13, half from Virgil United Methodist Church and half from Harmony United Methodist Church in Harford, have worked since October cleaning, repairing and repainting the life-size Nativity scene that now graces the front lawn of the Virgil church. It was so old, some of the figures — made of a foam and hollow in the middle — were coming apart.

And then there was the matter of the missing baby Jesus.

“That’s another story,” said the Rev. Steph Brown, pastor of Virgil United Methodist Church and Harmony United Methodist Church.

Teens from both churches meet twice a month, once to work on a specific service project and once for a fellowship meeting.

On a one degree night on Wednesday, Brown, accompanied everywhere by a Yorkie mix named First Timothy, had the old Virgil church nice and toasty to talk about the project.

“I am so thrilled,” Brown said. “I have been going to this church since 1980. This is the first time I have had a Nativity like that outside.”

“A couple guys in the church built the stable,” she said.

The statues were gray and dreary, no color to them at all when the kids unearthed them, she said. Gorilla glue and toothpicks went a long way to repair some of the figures.

“I just wanted that camel (to work on),” said Lia Barber, 12.

One of the old-time members of the church remembered the Nativity scene, which was stowed in the garage on church grounds and suggested the teen group clean it up. They agreed.

The kids have to do a certain number of projects to get to go to the Living Bible Museum in Cincinnati, Barber said.

They also helped a Harford man with a disability clean out his home after a flood, a huge job. Next, they will play games with seniors at the Creamery Hill Senior Center in Harford. “We can play chess,” said Alex Seng, 16, of Harford.

The youth group is teaching Hayley Greene, 12, of Harford, how to work as a team, she said.

After they cleaned and repaired the Joseph, Mary, three wise men, lamb and camel, they got to work painting them. Judy Alsberg, teen youth leader from Harmony UMC, with the help of Barber, did the fine work of painting details.

“We did the broad strokes, she did the fine stuff,” said Brown, who would transport the statues to Alsberg’s house in Harford.

“Almost all the wise men have seen Harford at one time,” Brown said.

Alsberg said she would study the statues.

“With them sitting in my kitchen, I let them talk to me,” she said.

It sounds strange, she said. But she would see what needed to be highlighted and go from there.

“We had everything painted,” Brown said. “But we couldn’t find baby Jesus. Some older people in the church said he has to be in the garage. We tore that garage apart. No baby Jesus.”

She went to the store and bought a doll that she wasn’t too happy about, but would make do.

“I am walking down the road with the doll … and I hear, ‘Hey pastor. Never mind. We found baby Jesus,’” Brown said. He was buried in some crook of the garage.

“And baby Jesus didn’t need any paint,” said Alsberg and made his arrival in the manger like the days of old. “Baby Jesus came just in time.”