A beloved nativity scene that was once an annual sight at the corner of South Fraser Way and Clearbrook Road has found a new home at an Abbotsford church.
The feature is now displayed at St. James Catholic Church at 2767 Townline Rd. An official unveiling took place Tuesday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m.
The display had previously been erected annually for many years at Clearbrook Plaza, but was not put up in 2013 or last year.
It had been purchased several years ago by the Braun family, including Mayor Henry Braun, who are the former owners of the plaza.
The scene featured three-quarter-sized statues, which were designed by a company involved in movie productions.
The Brauns provided maintenance of the nativity and added a figure each year, eventually creating a set that included Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, three wise men, shepherds, an angel, animals and more within a barn-like structure.
The family first erected the display in 2001, but when the property was sold, they gave the nativity scene to the new owners.
They put up the display for two years, but stopped doing so two years ago due to the expense, estimated to be about $20,000 each year for maintenance, set-up and take-down.
The absence of the nativity scene prompted numerous inquiries and concerns from the public, many of whom assumed that the city was responsible for the display.
Two local churches – St. Ann’s and St. James – have since became involved. Both have councils of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal service organization.
Rudy Van Berkel, who is the “grand knight” of the St. James council, said a member approached the new owners of Clearbrook Plaza, and they agreed to donate the nativity display to the churches.
Berkel said the organizations wanted “to give something back to the community.”
But the display required some work, including rebuilding of the barn structure and some touch-ups to the figures due to mold on their clothing.
Van Berkel said the repairs have cost about $3,500 – money raised by parishioners and by the Knights of Columbus.
The scene was initially planned to go up at St. Ann’s Church on Mayfair Avenue, but some complications with the property resulted in St. James becoming the designated location.
Van Berkel said the church plans to make the display an annual holiday tradition, and funds will continue to be raised for its maintenance.
The official unveiling on Tuesday is open to the public and includes blessings, readings, and refreshments. Mayor Braun and his wife Velma will also be in attendance.
The nativity scene will remain on display until Jan. 6.