Posted on December 24, 2018

Calgary Church Challenges ‘Aggressively White’ Nativity Scenes

Janet Dirks, CTV National News, December 22, 2018

A small church in Calgary has put a new spin on the classic Christmas nativity scene by including more diverse faces.

The 110-year-old Red Deer Lake United Church’s display shows Mary and Joseph with dark complexions and wearing contemporary clothing. It also features Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar, American singer-songwriter Michael Franti and National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde as the biblical three kings.

Rev. Nicholas Coates said his church strives to make everyone feel accepted, and that “too often, nativity scenes are just aggressively white.”

“If this is a story that took place in first century Middle East, they would be brown people,” he said.

“That, I think, can open up a lot of really important questions when we think about immigration policies and how we welcome the others,” Coates added.

The nativity scene was created by local artist Larry Stilwell, who said that Bellegarde was included because “we need to be engaging our First Nations brothers and sisters.”

Stillwell added that he wants the nativity scene to provoke soul-searching in those who see it.

“The characters are designed to look you square in the eye and ask you, ‘Are you in or out?’” he said. “Are you committed to a Christian scene or a Christian lifestyle? Or are you prepared to stand on the sidelines?”