Panorama is a ‘mission’ of church

Published 9:31 pm Friday, December 11, 2009

Many have heard the story of the first Christmas repeated throughout the years. However, one Suffolk church is making sure hundreds of people can see it for themselves this year.

Wilroy Baptist Church is once again putting on its free drive-through Christmas panorama tonight and Sunday night. The panorama, set up in the parking lot of the church, invites people to drive through and witness the life of Christ portrayed by live actors.

“It makes it so much more real when you see it acted out with live characters,” said Betty Sue Plewes, who is one of many volunteers helping make the panorama happen. “It just has a whole lot more meaning to it.”

The panorama portrays scenes of Christ’s life, some of which change from year to year. This winter, the panorama includes census takers, a chorus of angels, the birth of Christ, the visit of the wise men, the Last Supper, Christ carrying the cross, the Crucifixion, the empty tomb and the Resurrection.

The entire visit takes about two minutes to drive through, volunteer Bruce Johnson said. Johnson helped to set up the scenes Friday morning.

“It’s the church’s opportunity to present Jesus Christ to the community in a way that is very informal and very holiday-oriented,” Johnson said. “It brings the Christ back into Christmas.”

This is the 14th year of the panorama, by Plewes’ estimate. An average of 500 cars visit the event each year, Plewes said, and the community has come to expect the event.

“It seems like we have become known for doing it,” Plewes said. “People look forward to doing it. When we have a booth at the Peanut Fest each year, that’s the question we get the most.”

The community seems to enjoy the event, Plewes said.

“They appreciate it,” she said. “It makes a difference in people’s lives.”

The panorama even helps adults start conversations about Christ with their children, Plewes said.

“People have their windows down, and you can hear the children saying, ‘What’s this about’ and ‘What’s that about.’ It gives them an opportunity to talk to them about it.”

Church members and volunteers enjoy the event just as much as the community does, Plewes said. Volunteers have dinner together at the church each night before getting dressed and heading out into the cold. Teens and children get especially excited, Plewes said.

“The youth have a big part in it,” Plewes said. “We didn’t do the angel scene for a couple years, and the children just begged us and begged us to bring it back. They get cold just like everybody else, but they do a good job.”

Plewes said the church is committed to providing the panorama for people in the community.

“It really is a mission,” Plewes said. “A lot of people, maybe they don’t have a church or they’re new to the area. It gives us a greater desire to put it on.”