Shar Marshall puts the finishing touches on the Heaven Came Down display of angels and Nativities at the Bethel Family Life Center in Mount Cory. (Photo by Brenna Griteman)

By BRENNA GRITEMAN

LIFE EDITOR

MOUNT CORY — A little slice of heaven is on display in Mount Cory, and it’s guaranteed to boost your holiday humor.

“Some people say that after they’ve been here, now they’re in the Christmas spirit,” says Shar Marshall, the driving force behind the annual Heaven Came Down display at the Bethel Family Life Center.

Indeed, to step inside the Mount Cory United Methodist Church social hall is to be wholly embraced by the true essence of the Christmas story. Approximately 200 angels and 200 Nativities are displayed throughout the room, flanked by festive Christmas trees, strands of heavenly white lights and the soothing sounds of orchestral Christmas tunes.

This divine display — some donated to the permanent collection and others on loan for the month of December — features angels and Nativities from across the globe.

Marshall points to a Native American-made Nativity, gifted by a former exchange student at Cory-Rawson High School to their host family; a teeny-tiny Nativity gifted by an airline company to a passenger returning home from Hawaii; a stand-up cardboard cut-out Nativity scene believed to be from the 1940s; and an elaborate Thomas Kinkade Nativity donated to the cause because the original owner ran out of space to display it in her own home. There’s a Nativity made from olive wood, brought back from the Holy Land; and a collection of ornaments made from sand from Bethlehem. A “VeggieTales” Nativity ornament was graciously donated to the cause by Marshall’s grandkids who had two in their personal collection and, after loaning theirs to the display previously, advised, “Grandma, you just keep one.”

In the newly added “Angel Forest” stands an angel cleverly crafted from a repurposed hymn book, which Marshall picked up at a local thrift shop.

“So many people, if they would come and look, would say, ‘I had something just like that once,'” Marshall says with a laugh, noting her emerging habit of scouring garage sales and resale shops for angels and Nativities.

Marshall has been at it since 2013 and says the display and its audience have grown through the years.

In its first year, “we probably didn’t have a dozen people come through,” agrees Jean Clevidence, a lifetime member of the church who helps Marshall set up the display. Last year’s exhibit drew 186 guests, and that’s double the amount from the year before, Clevidence says.

A newly added play area for children includes stuffed animals, puzzles and, of course, a Lego Nativity set.

Heaven Came Down is open for public viewing the first two weekends of December, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. Sundays. It’s also open for several hours after the church’s Christmas Eve services.

If a Bible study group or civic organization wants to organize a time to visit outside these hours, Marshall is happy to oblige. Call her at 419-302-7863.

The Bethel Family Life Center is located at 201 W. Washington St., Mount Cory.

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