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‘Journey to Bethlehem’ returns to Old Tennent Church, Dec. 3-4

MANALAPAN — A much-loved tradition is returning to the grounds of the Old Tennent Church, 448 Tennent Road, Manalapan, this year.

From 6-9 p.m. on Dec. 3-4, the church will present its annual Christmas drive-through event, “Journey to Bethlehem.” All members of the community are invited to visit the church grounds to enjoy the free presentation.

“We are happy to announce that once again, Old Tennent Church will present our annual Christmas drive-through, ‘Journey to Bethlehem.’  The event originally started in 1988 and continued through 2004. After a 12-year hiatus and with a vision to keep the dream alive, it was resurrected in 2016 by church members under the guidance of Pat Herczeg,” Old Tennent Church Administrator Cathy Mitschele said.

The Nativity pageant drew more than 900 vehicles in 2019. “Journey to Bethlehem” was not held during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

According to Mitschele, sojourners drive through the Old Tennent Church cemetery grounds viewing live Biblical scenes that begin with Isaiah telling of Jesus’ birth and ending with the Nativity.

More than 500 luminaries will light the way and attendees will witness Roman Centurions tending camp fires. More than 100 actors, including numerous volunteers and live farm animals, recreate key scenes of the historic Christmas narrative.

Mitschele said church members join together as actors/actresses, carpenters, electricians, painters, seamstresses, dressers, advertisers and kitchen help to bring “Journey to Bethlehem” to life.

All 100 of the original costumes that are used in “Journey to Bethlehem” were handmade and sewn with hook and eye closures by parishioners. With careful use and mending, those costumes are still being used.

“​This event is organized by Old Tennent Church and wonderful volunteers from a wide spectrum. We especially thank the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts, the Gordons Corner Fire Company and the Manalapan Police Department for their continued dedication to helping, as well as the generous sponsorship of local businesses,” Mitschele said.

Old Tennent Church is on the national and state registers of historic places. The church has held, and continues to hold, Sunday morning worship services for the entire 330 years of its existence. The Sunday school has more than 170 years of continuous religious education, according to Mitschele.

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