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Ander church mixes traditional with modern in Christmas play

By KBell
Dec. 12, 2010 at 6:12 a.m.

Adam Griffith lifts the tail of a camel, played by Kaid Brand, during a commercial for camel deodorizer during a St. Peter's Lutheran Church of Ander presentation of "Live from Bethlehem" on Sunday. The play told a comic version of the story of Christmas through newscasters on a television news show complete with commercials for things that people of the period may have needed.

ANDER - In a dark church on a quiet road in Ander, a conga line of miniature shepherds followed a man in a dreadlock wig and tie-dye shirt while lip syncing to a reggae version of "The First Noel."

They had followed to stage the pastor of St. Peter's Lutheran Church, John Dellis. He was clad in black spandex, shades and a glittery cardboard cutout - the North Star - at the church's annual Christmas program.

"It's the same story," said Debbie Foster, who helped direct the play. "It always ends the same. We just get there a little differently."

This year's play was called, "Live from Bethlehem," and featured kids of all ages and some adults telling the story of Jesus's birth from a news reporter's perspective.

"The kids really ham it up, and I think we have a lot of fun," said the program's director, Terri Lynn Dornburg.

Dornburg called herself "the new kid on the block," while church members tried to recall how many years the church had been having a similar Christmas celebration.

"I think they've been doing a Christmas program since the beginning of the church," Foster said.

St. Peter's is the oldest Lutheran church in Goliad County, established in 1875, the members said.

"The Lutheran Church is very traditional," said 47-year-member Alvin DeForest. "It's kind of nice to step away from that structure for a little while and do something different."

From the inn-keeper boasting a facial mask to Bethlehem travelers sporting rolling luggage and disposable cameras, this Christmas story was hardly conventional.

But, in between mock newscasts, the audience joined in the performance singing traditional songs, like "Away in a Manger," and "Silent Night."

"You get the message. The message is there," said Allen Jank, who's been with the church his entire 76 years. "One of the neat things about this play is that the kids enjoy doing it. In the older plays, you had to guard the doors to get them to do it."

Backstage before their performance, a group of Goliad High School seniors were preparing for their last gig at the church. When asked how long they'd been participating in the Christmas program, they replied in unison and with a laugh, "forever."

"It's a family thing," said one senior, Garrett Friedrichs. "A couple of years ago, we were all talking animals, and I was the donkey. I've never lived that down."

Garrett plans on attending Texas A&M University after graduation. When asked if he's going to miss his 120-member family at St. Peter's Lutheran Church, Friedrichs was taken back.

"Oh, no. I'm going to come back on the weekends."



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