Interactive walks in Grand Haven, Montague to highlight Jesus’ birth, Bethlehem

By Tony Wittkowski | Reporter | MLive – Muskegon Chronicle

MUSKEGON, MI — Some churches in the Muskegon area will be providing church-goers with the opportunity to visit events featuring key elements of the Christmas season this December.

The religious focus of the season will be the focus of events in Montague and Grand Haven.

The Ferry Memorial Reformed Church in Montague will be hosting the Journey of Joy from 6-8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6 and Sunday, Dec. 7. The event is designed to allow friends and families to follow a recreation of the path to the birth place of Jesus Christ.

Jeanne Flanders, director for the Journey of Joy, said the church, 8637 Old Channel Trail, will have dozens of patrons moving in and out throughout the first weekend of December.

“There will be a scene with lepers and then eventually people travel on to the shepherds in a field and the angels start singing in another room,” Flanders said. “We travel outside to run into some nomads and we end up in what was the manger.”

The walk that features a guide has become a major attraction with its interactive aspects, hot chocolate and cookies. The interactive walk will have sheep, a donkey, chickens, roosters and a baby calf, Flanders said.

The walk has been going on for more than 20 years and has gone through some changes over time. Flanders has been the director of the walk for the last 10 years and in that time several scenes have been added, including the one with lepers.

“We probably have on an average night anywhere from 250 to 300 people,” Flanders said. “There is no cost to come in, but we do put a basket out for free will. We don’t do it for a money maker. It’s just a really neat way to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.”

A Journey to Bethlehem

A walk organized by St. John’s Lutheran Church that takes place at Duncan Woods in Grand Haven will be held over the course of three days.

With the walk starting at the United Methodist Church of the Dunes, 717 Sheldon Road, attendees can purchase their tickets for various walk times ranging from 5:45-9 p.m. Dec. 11-13.

Terri Metzger, project leader for the Journey to Bethlehem, said the walk is unique because it unifies approximately 28 churches from the Tri-Cities area.

“All different kinds of faiths and denominations are present at the walk at night,” Metzger said. “It represents the travels that Mary and Joseph made from Nazareth and Bethlehem.”

Entering its third year, the walk allows travelers in groups of 25 to be led by guides in costumes. Attendees start at United Methodist where they are then transported to the Duncan Woods for a 45-minute walk.

Metzger said afterward all participants have time to wind down and have cookies and hot chocolate at United Methodist.

“We have built the city of Bethlehem off site so we put it up in the park,” Metzger said. “People get to meet Roman soldiers on horseback, Rabbis, shepherds and sheep in a stable.”

St. John’s is still selling tickets at $5 a person. Metzger said they have been sold out the previous two years after selling 3,750 tickets. For more information on purchasing a ticket, visit the event website at www.journey2bethlehem.com/

Tony Wittkowski is a staff reporter at MLive Muskegon Chronicle. Email him at twittkow@mlive.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 1, 2014)

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