She didn’t know it when she first arrived, but Lindsey Atterton was destined to play the Virgin Mary during the North Rochester Congregational Church Christmas service on December 22.
Everything was in place for the live nativity, the highlight of the second annual event at the church, or at least that is what the coordinators thought until late that afternoon when they received the news that Mary, along with a few other key figures like Joseph and some shepherds and wisemen, had fallen ill and were not going to make it.
In came Lindsey, visiting from Boston and attending the service with friends and family. Deacon Patti Keller, one of the coordinators, singled Lindsey out and asked her to play Mary in light of the circumstances.
“We had to [pick] a Mary from the back row,” said Deacon Keller. “She (Lindsey) was the right height for the costume.” She said the first Mary who was chosen suddenly could not make it, and the alternate Mary was sick.
Reverend Paul Harrison told the congregation of about 35 people, “We thought we had everything set for the evening, but because of the sickness, we’ve recruited a new cast.”
The gatherers opened the service singing “Joy to the World,” followed by the lighting of the Advent candles, with Deacon Keller asking, “Is there a sheep in the back who would like to help light a candle?” Little sheep Isabelle Breton, age 6 of Middleboro, was excited to oblige.
Halfway through the service, it was time for Joseph and Mary to enter the scene. Smiling shyly, they quietly took their places in the front of the room, beneath a wooden-constructed stable as the audience sang “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem,” accompanied by Paul Sardinha of New Bedford on the organ.
One by one, the rest of the characters took their places. Steven Morrison, age 8 of Rochester, playing a shepherd, took his place beside Joseph as his little sheep Isabelle followed him. Little camel Camden Vallee, age 4 of Rochester, stood on the other side by Mary.
The congregation continued singing various Christmas hymns, like “Away in a Manger,” “The First Noel,” and “We Three Kings.”
Once the children were assembled, and the story of Jesus’s birth was told, the lights were turned out and each one in the room lit a white candle and softly sang “Silent Night.”
“Let us remember the less fortunate than us, in this season of giving,” Reverend Harrison reminded the congregation before concluding the service.
Vistor Morrison, age 15 of Rochester, a.k.a. Joseph, said it was great playing Joseph, even if it was last minute.
“I did it last year,” said Victor, “but I didn’t know I was going to do it again this year.”
Before leaving, Lindsey, age 25, a.k.a. Mary, said she was happy to help out at the last minute.
“I loved the opportunity to participate,” said Lindsey. “It was great.”
By Jean Perry
Photos by Felix Perez