Nativity scene will collect groceries

The Christmas story is depicted in a unique way at First Church of Otago — through a larger-than-life 3-D nativity scene designed to be filled up with donated groceries.

First Church minister the Rev Dr Malcolm Gordon, who built the plywood and perspex representations of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in the manger, said he believed it was "the first, only and therefore largest ever grocery-based nativity scene in the world".

The project came about as First Church was looking for a way to "help our neighbourhood connect with the nativity story and also to connect with what is happening in our city right now".

"The nativity story is a very old story that is, at its heart, about hospitality — so we are encouraging the people of Dunedin to show hospitality and generosity to the people in our city who are doing it tough."

Speaking to Presbyterian Support Otago, which runs the Family Works Foodbank, Dr Gordon learned that January was often the hardest time for families in need.

"So it seemed a good idea to have the nativity scene here to collect grocery donations through the Christmas season, and on Boxing Day I will take it all across to the foodbank."

Reactions to the nativity scene had been very positive, and donations had been coming in steadily from the congregation and community organisations.

"We have concerts and a range of services coming up between now and Christmas, so we are very hopeful of filling up the nativity scene — and really adding colour to it in the process."

Visitors to the church, which is open on weekdays from 10.30am-2.30pm, were also invited to make donations, Dr Gordon said.

The concept was launched as a pilot this year and, if it took off, there may be angels and shepherds added in future years — perhaps in other places.

Upcoming Christmas services at First Church will include a children’s pyjama service at 5.30pm and an 11.30pm candlelight service on Christmas Eve.

The Christmas Day service will be held at 10am.