Once a year I present this story here. Sometimes the details differ by a word or three. But the message, I think, is timeless. Come gather around me, children, and I will tell you...
When first I came to Roxborough, over a third of a century ago, the creche was already a tradition of long standing. Every year it appeared in Gorgas Park during the Christmas season. It wasn't all that big -- maybe seven feet high at its tip -- and it wasn't very fancy. The figures of Joseph and Mary, the Christ child, and the animals were a couple of feet high at best, and there were sheets of Plexiglas over the front of the wooden construction to keep people from walking off with them. But there was a painted backdrop of the hills of Bethlehem at night, the floor was strewn was real straw, and it was genuinely loved.
It was a common sight to see people standing before the creche, especially at night, admiring it. Sometimes parents brought their small children to see it for the first time and the wonder they displayed was genuinely moving. It provided a welcome touch of seasonality and community to the park.
Alas, Gorgas Park is public property, and it was only a matter of time before somebody complained that the creche violated the principle of the separation of church and state. When the complaint finally came, the creche was taken out of the park and put into storage.
People were upset of course. Nobody liked seeing a beloved tradition disappear. There was a certain amount of grumbling and disgruntlement. One might even say disgrumblement.
So the kindly people of Leverington Presbyterian Church, located just across the street from the park, stepped in. They adopted the creche and put it up on the yard in front of their church, where it could be seen and enjoyed by all.
But did this make us happy? It did not. The creche was just not the same located in front of a church. It seemed lessened, in some strange way, made into a prop for the Presbyterians. You don't see people standing before it anymore.
I was in a local tappie shortly after the adoption and heard one of the barflies holding forth on this very subject: