New Church Display Expands Meaning of Mangers

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COLUMBIA - More than 300 nativity scenes covered tables at Campus Lutheran Church in Columbia for the Meet Me at the Manger event on Friday and Saturday.

Each scene was made in countries from around the world like Myanmar, Russia and Kenya. There were hundreds of different cultural adaptations, showing different clothes, skin tones, animals, barns and mangers.

This is the first year Campus Lutheran Church has opened its nativity scene display to the public. In previous years only members of the church saw the display, but Sharon Kinden, coordinator for Meet Me at the Manger, believed it was time to share the Christmas spirit.

Kinden and a group of others started the display after they realized how many  mangers they had collected through their mission trips and personal travels. Members started to gather more and more mangers from around the world to create the display.

Kinden hopes Meet Me at the Manger will educate people from all backgrounds and religions on the meaning behind mangers. The nativity scenes share the story of the birth of Christ, but a manger means more than a statement of faith.

“That’s part of heritage," Kinden said. "That’s part of who we are. We pass them down through our families from generation to generation as testament of our love to the lord but also love to our families."

On Friday, the American English for Internationals class attended an early display walk through. The students were of all ages, religions and countries like Brazil, China, Croatia, Korea and Ukraine.

“Many of them are not Christians, so they are learning about what a manger is,” Kinden said.

Meet Me at the Manger gave students a chance to learn about Christianity and gave others the opportunity to learn more about American depictions as well as other countries' cultures.

The nativity scene from Peru was particularly interesting to Father Rodrigo Rios, an American English for Internationals student and catholic priest from Brazil.

“I could imagine how these people think about this,” Father Rodrigo Rios said. “Every culture has a thinking and thought about this.”

The public had the same opportunities to learn more about the artistry, ancestry, and religion behind the mangers on Friday and Saturday.