The show will go on. And for Christians, the show is the greatest story ever told. All Nations Church will continue its beloved tradition of performing the Living Nativity play this Christmas.
Challenged by COVID-19 protocols that limit the size of social gatherings, the 2020 edition will be held on the church grounds on Raphael Street, and will be a drive-in or drive-by presentation.
The Living Nativity, performed by actors, will be televised on giant screens.
For the past 32 years, the Christmas story was performed at Science North nightly from Dec. 20 to 24.
All Nations has faced its share of challenges in the last 16 months. In addition to ministering to members during the pandemic, the church lost its dynamic leader, Rev. Jeremy Mahood, in June 2019. He died suddenly just before his 70th birthday.
Mahood had been head of the Baptist church, which his father established in Sudbury in 1953, for 40 years and championed its ambitious plan to build a $4.5 million building.
Its state-of-the-art lighting and recording equipment enhance the church's ability to produce and livestream services on KFM 95.5 and the Internet to a larger congregation throughout northeastern Ontario.
All Nations Church was closed for several months this spring but since June, has been offering Sunday services at 30 per cent capacity, says interim executive pastor and elder Mike Tulloch, who is volunteering his time to oversee administrative matters.
Tulloch, one of nine elders at All Nations Church, has a strong business background as the founder of Tulloch Engineering.
"We are just seeming to get our feet under ourselves, then the shutdown threw us for a loop, just like every church I'm sure. Pastor Jeremy was a good friend of mine and the church is still recovering from the grieving process," he says.
While the elders search for a new lead pastor, Pastor Stephen Marshall is ministering to the congregation from his home in East Lansing, Mich., about an hour's drive west of Detroit.
His visits to Sudbury have been challenged by border restrictions.
"I was up there (Sudbury) for the month of August. My wife and I were in quarantine for 14 days but for the rest of the time we roamed freely in the beautiful city of Sudbury. (But) I had no lack of work while in quarantine."
The pastor records his sermon for Sunday worship services which is mixed with local musical performances. The program is broadcast to the congregation and streamed on KFM 95.5 FM and on the Internet.
"I really appreciate the foresight of Pastor Jeremy. It was a gift from God. He had foresight about the way technology was going, and the way the people want things delivered to their homes," Marshall says.
Sunday services are complemented by Life Group discussions, "which may be face-to-face, depending on their comfort level, or we have virtual life groups, Zoom meetings, that sort of thing. We drop a podcast in the middle of the week. We really try to make use of the Internet, YouTube, Facebook to try to reach a diverse audience.
"It is called All Nations Church. We try to reach college-aged students, young people, elderly people, middle-aged working people, families, single people and all nationalities.
Marshall and his wife, Pam, have enjoyed successful careers as gospel singers and have ministered throughout the world. (https://stephenandpam.org)
"Stephen is as close to Pastor Jeremy (as we can get) in his speaking style and his music style. We are fortunate to get him," says Tulloch.
Details about the Living Nativity program are still being finalized as organizers keep an eye on the province's social gathering restrictions. All Nations also has plans to produce a Christmas concert in mid-December.