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West Blocton pastorís wife shares collection of more than 400 nativity scenescomment (0)

December 15, 2005

By Sammie Jo Barstow

As a young Navy wife living in Mayport, Fla., in 1969, Rachel Jones purchased a paint-by-number nativity kit. She painted and assembled the nativity and proudly displayed it in her home that year.

Jones still has that nativity scene — along with more than 400 others, containing a total of more than 3,000 pieces.

Little did she realize that simple hand-painted nativity would be the start of a collection that has long since outgrown her home.

Now the nativities are stored in a room in Johntown Baptist Church, West Blocton, in Bibb Baptist Association, where Jones’ husband, Ray, serves as pastor.

For the third time since the Joneses came to Johntown Baptist 13 years ago, she will display her collection in the church’s fellowship hall Dec. 17–18. The fellowship hall will be open Dec. 17, 5–8 p.m., and Dec. 18, 2–5 p.m.

“I’ve been a Christian since I was 14, and I’ve always wanted to decorate for Christmas with a spiritual theme rather than having so many Santas,” Jones said. “I think seeing my collection has made a lot of people think about the real meaning of Christmas.”

Jones’ interest in collecting nativity scenes grew when her husband became a pastor after retiring from the Navy.

After he answered the call to preach, the couple returned to Johntown — the church where they grew up and were married.

As friends and family members learned of Jones’ interest in nativities, she began receiving them as gifts.

Wherever the family goes on its annual fall vacation, Jones purchases at least one nativity.

Her diverse collection features scenes from a variety of countries and a variety of styles. She has nativity music boxes and water fountains, as well as one that plays a recording of the Christmas story from the Bible.

Jones also has some nativities for children, such as Precious Moments figurines, and always has one display where the children can play with the figures.

“I have an African-American nativity, a Native-American Indian one and an ice sculpture nativity that is clear glass,” she said. “I have some country wooden ones, and I have one that a friend and his wife handmade for me from the state of Washington. I also have one from Bethlehem.”

One of her favorite sources for nativities is WorldCrafts, a collection of various handmade items from around the world offered for sale through Woman’s Missionary Union. Through WorldCrafts, Jones has purchased nativities from India, Jordan and Thailand.

Her display also includes pictures of nativity scenes. One of Jones’ favorites is a framed portrait of her grandchildren with a nativity.“We took them out in the edge of the woods here at my house,” she said. “We did a manger scene and took a picture of them.”

In addition to the nativities display, Jones will decorate two Christmas trees with nativity ornaments. She estimates she will put more than 100 ornaments on each tree. Jones has collected so many ornaments since the last time she displayed them that she has lost count of how many she presently has.

Jones said it will take visitors at least an hour to walk through and see her entire collection.

“Most people really cannot believe it,” she said. “They tell me they didn’t know what to expect and they’re just in awe. They just keep going back around and looking at them again and again.”

Could there possibly be any type of nativity that Jones does not have?

“Yes,” she said. “The only one I ever saw that I don’t have — and I probably won’t ever have because it costs $3,500 — was a life-size olive wood nativity that I saw in Orlando, Fla., at an attraction called ‘The Holy Land.’”

After all these years of collecting nativities, her passion hasn’t dimmed. “I love every one of them,” Jones said. “Seeing them just makes Christmas come alive for me.”

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