Collector’s cornucopia of creches comes to Morris Township exhibition

Editor’s note: This story was submitted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of Morris Township.

By Marcia Stornetta
To say Morris Township attorney Rebecca Kirkman loves Christmas would be an understatement. She spent October bubble-wrapping Magi and shepherds for transport, and November weekends stringing lights.
Rebecca Kirkman and Richard Matthews setting up creches. Photo courtesy of church.

Rebecca Kirkman and Richard Matthews setting up creches. Photo courtesy of church.

This week you’ll find her putting final touches on her nativity scenes, which will be displayed at the annual Community Crèche Christmas Celebration in Morris Township.

It all started innocently enough—Kirkman received a three-inch candle set of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus and a lamb in a 3rd grade gift exchange. She added an antique Dresden nativity as a teenager. Now, decades later, she has hundreds.
In fact, she has so many nativities that she has does not know how many are in her collection. “To be honest, I’ve never counted them,” she stated. “But I would estimate that I have between 300 to 350.”
Haitian creche fashioned from oil barrel. Photo courtesy of church.

Haitian creche fashioned from oil barrel. Photo courtesy of church.

“I think of my crèches as if they were an art collection,” she stated. Some are displayed throughout my home year round. And unfortunately, some of them never see the light of day.”

That is one reason Kirkman, who attended the exhibit last year, looked forward to this year’s event—she is able to display several crèches that otherwise might remained stored in her large Victorian home.

Around 70 of her crèches will be among the nearly 300 nativities from around the world featured this weekend at the free exhibit hosted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 283 James Street.
All the nativities are staged in the large multi-purpose room that has been transformed into a winter wonderland.
Kirkman’s criterion for choosing which crèche to display was simple—she chose nativities that were in some way unique. In particular, she chose nativities that were handcrafted and reflect how artisans of a particular country might interpret the story of Christ’s birth.
Icelandic creche. Photo courtesy of church.

Icelandic creche. Photo courtesy of church.

Among some of the crèche Kirkham plans to display are an Icelandic crèche with Mary bundled in native woven fabric, a Haitian nativity scene crafted from an oil barrel, a Byzantine­-style ceramic plaque from Turkey, a Kenyan crèche fashioned from banana leaves, and a handcrafted crèche by mountain artists in the Dominican Republic.

And what does her husband Richard, a retired Verizon manager, think of the collection? Rebecca laughs and says, “He just sighs. Richard is a sweet, patient man. He puts up with my hobby. The fact that he likes most of the nativity scenes makes it more tolerable for him.”
The Community Crèche Christmas Celebration, which is free and open to the public, also features several musical performances.
Featured performers are Express Male, an independent vocal ensemble within The Morris Choral Society, and Wendy Lane Bailey, a local vocalist and recording artist, who are scheduled to perform on Saturday evening at 7:10 p.m.
A live nativity tableau will also be enacted at scheduled times throughout the evening on Saturday and Sunday. A children’s room for young children will have Christmas crafts.
The hours for the exhibit are Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, from 6-8 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 7 from 1-8 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 8 from 3-7 p.m. There is no admission charge. For a list of performers or directions, visit www.communitycreche.org.
Express Male will perform at creche celebration. Photo courtesy of church.

Express Male, a subset of the Morris Choral Society, will perform at creche celebration. Photo courtesy of church.



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