By Janis Fontaine
Imagine a children’s Christmas pageant with no assigned roles, no director and no rehearsals. Chaos, right?
It is, but it’s charming chaos.
St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Boynton Beach hosts its Spontaneous Christmas Pageant every year, and it’s so popular it’s standing room only. This is the 25th year for the pageant, which takes place at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve at the church.
Dee Zlatic brought the idea for the Spontaneous Christmas Pageant with her when she relocated from Tenafly, N.J., years ago. She’s the children’s minister now but at the time she was a volunteer, and everyone loved her idea for this avant-garde event. She suspects the church would have loved any idea, but this was a good one.
“We like it because there’s no work for the parents. They don’t have to commit to rehearsals or making costumes. Parents are busy enough,” Zlatic said.
Here’s how it works: It begins with the pastor on stage reading the story of the birth of Jesus from the gospel. Every time a character is introduced, the rector calls out, “We need” — a soldier or a guard or an angel. The kids who want to play the role volunteer.
“All over the sanctuary hands shoot up,” Zlatic said. “They’re so excited.”
The children are chosen, randomly, to fill the roles. They come forward and while the congregation sings a Christmas carol, the kids are dressed in costumes and take their places on stage. Every child who wants to get up on stage gets an opportunity to do it. Kids can choose to play one of the animals — there are roles for sheep, cows and even the donkey that Mary rides — but if they don’t want to participate, they can just watch.
“It’s fun because you never know what’s going to happen,” Zlatic said. “One of my favorite memories happened at my church in New Jersey. One of the little angels got in a tug-of-war with Mary over baby Jesus. She didn’t want to let go!”
Even though there are no rehearsals and the whole pageant takes place in less than two hours, volunteers have been working all year to build and paint the sets and make the costumes. The day of the pageant, about 10 dressers get dozens of little ones ready for their performances.
“Ray Mills’ work creating the sets and animals is so amazing,” Zlatic said.
Zlatic said that some families come to church just once a year for the pageant, but that’s OK. She’s just glad they come.
“I hope what we offer the kids and youths helps the community,” she said.
Janis Fontaine writes about people of faith, their congregations, causes and community events. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
If You Go
What: The Spontaneous Christmas Pageant
When: 4-5:30 p.m. Dec. 24
Where: St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church, 3300 S. Seacrest Blvd., Boynton Beach.
Info: 732-3060; stjoesweb.org