It wasn’t night time and there were no cattle lowing or sheep baaing. But there was a star, an angel, some wisefolk and shepherds, and a couple of donkeys. Joseph and Mary were there too, with their baby Jesus, all serenaded by a little drummer boy. What was most prevalent was the joy felt by all who had gathered to recreate the Nativity.
This is the second year that a Communitas Nativity scene was organized by Krista Petrie. Krista serves as a Life Skills Worker with Communitas. She is also an accomplished photographer who loves nativity scenes.
“I collect unique nativities and I think that gave me the idea of staging a nativity scene at work,” Krista says. “I wanted to include anyone and everyone who wanted to be included. The more the merrier!”
As she thought about the components needed for a live, staged nativity scene, Krista realized that she wanted animals to be a part of it. Through a friend, she heard about Cheryl Larsen, who owns mini donkeys who often do photo sessions. The relationship was begun and for two years now, Cheryl’s animals have been a part of the Communitas nativity photo.
As it turns out, Cheryl also has a connection to Communitas. Until she retired earlier this year, she had been a Home Share and Adult Respite provider for over three decades. Cheryl has had animals since she was a child and currently owns cats, dogs, donkeys, and horses. The photo shoot took place on her farm in late October.
“The whole event was marvelous, really,” she says. “Our donkeys, Chloe and Crusher, are well socialized and they really behaved. It was fun to see people enjoying themselves and enjoying the animals.”
Those who participated loved the experience. Nicole played the role of Mary. Participation in the photo afforded her two first-time experiences.
“I’ve never held a baby before. I was nervous but it was my favourite part,” Nicole says. “I also never petted a donkey before either. It was different but in a good way.”
The Baby Jesus was played to perfection by Carter, the son of Samantha De Jong who serves as a Life Skills Worker with Communitas when she’s not on maternity leave. Samantha was excited to introduce Carter to the people she serves.
“I love that I can share my job and all the wonderful people I work with, with my family,” she says.
Nick enjoyed the role of Joseph. He loved being with all the people and seeing the animals. He hopes that the emotions he felt during the experience will come through in the photo.
“I hope that when people see the photo, they will feel happy and joyful,” Nick says.
Melody feels the same way. She had the opportunity to be a wisewoman and when asked if she enjoyed being near the animals, she let out a big laugh.
“Yes!” she said.
Alexander felt the same way about being one of the wisefolk. He loved getting dressed up in costumes with his friend Austin, and wearing a crown. He thought that the donkeys were “so cute.”
For Krista, the highlight of the day was simply seeing everyone get excited about costumes, interacting with the animals, and being part of a communal experience.
“I feel like it showcases who we are as Communitas,” Krista says. “A big group filled with energy, imperfection, grace, and a giant ball of ‘make a joyful noise’.”
When people see the final image, Krista hopes that they recognize that the nativity story is for everyone.
“I hope people feel seen,” she says. “We are all welcome here. We are all equally important in this world.”