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Despite government limits, Nevada church finds a way to present live nativity

Drone footage from last year's "The Living Nativity" at Green Valley Baptist Church will be the foundation of this year's production, which will be a TV broadcast rather than an in-person event.

HENDERSON, Nev. — “Can you hold on a second? It’s my turn to hit.”

Enjoying one of the socially-distanced activities allowed by the Nevada state government, Rob Boyd took aim at a 170-yard shot to the pin on a recent golf outing. He had been on the phone several minutes talking about “The Living Nativity,” Green Valley Baptist Church’s annual Christmas program. But interruptions happen. And when they do, they must be addressed.

In his 18th year as the church’s pastor, Boyd and others didn’t want to give up on “The Living Nativity,” which began two years into Boyd’s tenure with one seasonal performance. It has since grown to be the church’s single-largest outreach event into the Las Vegas metro area, incorporating more than 100 actors over several nights of performances for thousands.

Its growth has made Boyd a familiar face to many in his community. “When I go through town people say, ‘Hey, you’re my pastor,’” he said. “The Living Nativity has become a tradition for many in our area.”

COVID-19 was the interruption Boyd and other church leaders faced this year, affecting every aspect of ministry. And for Green Valley as well as other Nevada churches, the state’s strict shutdown measures have been an extra challenge to navigate, though they received some relief from the Supreme Court Tuesday (Dec. 15).

“We knew we couldn’t cram thousands of people together for this concert,” Boyd had said before taking his swing (he placed it 20 feet from the green.). “So, we canceled the Living Nativity, but not the presentation itself.”

Leading up to last year’s performance, Worship Pastor David Simpson asked for promotional help from Brian Holgate, a new attendee at Green Valley who had his own video production company.

“He got some shots for the commercial and enjoyed it so much, he wanted to come back with his drones and other equipment to get footage of the entire thing. At the time it felt like overkill, but we said ‘Sure,’” Simpson recalled.

Were it not for those video shots, the church’s Christmas outreach would have been canceled for 2020. Instead, footage from last year will combine with music, a candle lighting, an address from Boyd and an invitation to form “A Green Valley Christmas.” A 30-second commercial was produced for the event, which will air on local TV Saturday night (Dec. 19). The program will be made available the next night on the church’s Facebook page.

“It’s not a big deal we’re doing a TV show,” Simpson said, adding that a lot of churches broadcast on television. “But, it’s amazing to see how this all came together and fell into place. We’re excited to see how God is going to use this.”

Seeing the effects of COVID-19 and its potential impact on in-person gathering early on, Green Valley invested $50,000 toward upgrading its production and live streaming capabilities. In September it became apparent that The Living Nativity in its traditional form wouldn’t happen, making those earlier steps invaluable.

“This program is our way of not letting COVID get in the way of us sharing the Gospel through the Christmas Nativity,” Simpson said.

Interruptions happen. And when they do, they must be addressed. Instead of going around the mountain, Green Valley faced it and took a swing.

“My prayer is we will reach more people with the Gospel and give hope to our city because it’s been hit so hard with unemployment,” Boyd said. “We want to brighten their Christmas and let them now Jesus is the light at the end of the tunnel.”