, Gloucester, MA

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December 7, 2009

Nativity to come alive in Manchester after all

MANCHESTER — The Christmas story will come to life after all in Manchester this holiday season — just not on town property.

After a proposal from the First Parish Church to hold a live Nativity scene on Town Common as part of the church's Christmas Eve family service got shot down in November by the town's selectmen, support for the church's efforts to bring Christmas alive began pouring in, organizer Caroline Cheshire said yesterday.

Members of the Manchester community — including the Masons, the American Legion and Sacred Heart Parish, along with multiple private citizens — came forward and offered to host the Nativity scene. And that opened new doors for Cheshire and others who first sought to have the live Nativity on town land but right in front of the church.

Now, First Parish Church, along with the First Baptist Church and Sacred Heart Parish in town, will all host a community-wide Christmas Eve celebration at 4 p.m. on Dec. 24 in the Smith family's garden at 32 School St. — complete with a live Nativity.

This location was chosen because of its central location all three churches in town, Cheshire said.

The original proposed scene for the Town Common included the roles of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and a donkey. The revitalized presentation is now expected to include two goats and two sheep but Cheshire is looking for more.

The idea to hold the live Nativity on the Town Common, which the First Parish Church essentially shares with the town as a front lawn, was rejected by selectmen because of potential church-state legal concerns, and due to what the selectmen called a lack of information provided by the written proposal.

But a number of people and organizations, including some letter writers to the Times, decried the selectmen's decision, and urged support for the church and its living Nativity project.

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