MARYVILLE, Mo. – First Presbyterian Church opens the Christmas season with an event to raise money for the Choir Scholarship Fund the church has for students at Northwest Missouri State University.
Linda Hansen, a member of the church who administers the scholarship fund, designed the world of celebrating Christmas – a day filled with Christmas decorations, homemade treats and holiday cheer.
The event, which replaces the Chocolate Festival which the church hosted for nearly 16 years, will feature an exhibition of miniature nativity scenes acquired from countries around the world. There will be 26 miniature county sets such as Liberia, Italy, Germany, Kenya and more.
“It all started when I was talking to my friend who has this amazing collection of cribs,” Hansen said. “And I said, you know it would be great to show up in church.”
Judy Weishar, who traveled the world to collect these nativity scenes, told Hansen that she struggled to decide which keepsake she wanted to collect on her travels until she started coming across the miniature nativity scenes.
“What I love about most of the sets I buy from open markets in Africa is that people bring ‘junk’ to us and make items to sell,” Weishar said in a statement. . “The whole of Kenya is made of maize husks. The one from Tanzania is just wire and old cloth. I have one from Ghana which is in a calabash. It’s just amazing to see the creativity.
The event, which will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. on December 10, will also have a “Christmas Shop” stocked with Christmas decorations and baked goods. The showroom will house the miniature nativity scenes as well as the Liberty Falls Village Collector’s Set. There will be voluntary donation jars in the Exhibit Hall and in the “Christmas Shop” to raise money for the choir’s scholarship fund.
The first Presbyterian Church Choir Scholarship was started in 2001 by Nina Schnieder who worked at the church as music director until her retirement in 2005. She was looking for two tenors for the church choir when she had the idea to start the scholarship and bring in two students from the Northwest, according to Hansen.
Schneider continued to administer the scholarship until his death in 2016, and his estate donated a large sum of money to the church to ensure the continuation of the scholarship. Hansen said the choir prize fund has grown to include 17 students, all of whom participate in the church choir almost every Sunday.
Fellows attend a Sunday service and perform with the choir under the direction of music director Larry Mannasmith. For each appearance they attend, the student receives $40 and receives a check the following month, Hansen said.
Aubrey Peterson participated in the church scholarship program for three years while working on her vocal music education degree at Northwest.
“It’s going to be hard enough for me to teach students and pay off my student loans on a teacher’s salary,” Peterson said. “So whatever help I can get now will help prepare me for a better tomorrow.”
Peterson said the church reminded her of the old church her grandparents attended in Omaha, and she loved having that sense of community while away from home.
“This little church in Maryville reminds me so much and makes me feel at home,” Peterson said.