Cumberland Times-News

Local News

November 15, 2011

Nativity tradition continues

Committee builds scene on downtown church’s lawn

CUMBERLAND — Thanks to a small group of local men, the tradition of erecting a Nativity scene and decorating a large Christmas tree on the lawn of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in downtown Cumberland will continue.

Two years ago, city officials decided to end city government’s involvement with the Nativity scene. According to Michael Mudge, one of the men who is keeping the tradition alive, city leaders had received a complaint from two people who objected to local government being involved in the Christian Nativity tradition.

After Christmas 2009, the city donated the Nativity items to The Cumberland Nativity & Tree Display Committee, comprised of Mudge, Rueben Lease, Ed Mullaney, Gary Bartik and Greg Getty. The items were then stored in warehouse space provided by Mullaney.

Last year, the Nativity scene was erected by the committee, but the large evergreen tree on the church lawn was unlighted. This year, lights will again adorn the tree.

On Tuesday, the volunteers began assembling this year’s Nativity scene.

Housed in the stable are the Christ Child, Joseph and Mary, an angel, a shepherd, eight sheep, a donkey and a cow. On the hillside are three wise men, another shepherd, 19 sheep and a camel.

Members of Emmanuel Episcopal Church believe the Nativity has been on the church lawn every Christmas since the 1920s.

The church has a commemorative plate picturing the Nativity scene dated 1952 and a photo display dated 1932.

The volunteers have already installed a new electricity panel box and washed and clear-coated the figurines. The stable is erected on the stone steps at the juncture of Washington, Cumberland, Baltimore and Greene streets.

“The city tree-lighting ceremony held the Friday after Thanksgiving hasn’t always been on Baltimore Street,” Mullaney said. “Before the pedestrian mall was installed, the big tree at Emmanuel Episcopal Church is where the official city tree-lighting was held,” he said.

“We put lights on over a dozen small trees donated by Larry Ulm of Pleasant Valley Tree Farm last year, but we got a lot of comments about the big tree being dark. We’ll be announcing good news about that soon,” Mullaney said.

A special checking account has been opened to receive donations, which are needed to cover costs of electric bills, materials, repairs and replacements.

Checks may be made payable to “Cumberland Nativity & Tree Committee” and mailed in care of Michael Mudge, 101 Oak Street, Cumberland, MD, 21502.

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