Since 1986, Kings Avenue Baptist Church has been hosting a festive, joy-filled Christmas tradition that transports guests directly to the ancient city of Bethlehem as it existed during the time of Jesus’ birth. Celebrating its 34th year, Walk Thru Bethlehem (WTB) is normally an interactive event where attendees experience the miracle of Christmas, but this year, due to the pandemic, the church has had to make some changes to keep everyone safe while sharing the story.

This free community event normally draws more than 6,000 visitors each year. Typically, guests are transported during a 30-minute guided tour through authentic settings of the ancient city of Bethlehem, including actors in time-period clothing, sets, scenery and animals.

More than 225 volunteers each evening would become the townspeople of Bethlehem, populated by Roman guards, weavers, blacksmiths, bakers, carpenters, potters and shepherds. The tour normally concludes with a visit to the manger with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.

City Director and Committee Member for WTB Tracy Hoyt said that the committee decided that because of concerns surrounding COVID-19, that this year’s format would need to change.

“We are not having our traditional WTB this year, but we are doing a series at our church,” said Hoyt. “Each Sunday, we will have a portion of the city set up and the pastor will go into deeper detail of that part of the story. The stage will be set for each service representing part of the city of WTB with actors in costume and participating with Pastor John as he delves in the series.”

Hoyt understands that many families have made WTB part of their family’s holiday tradition for years, but the safety of the visitors and the hundreds of volunteers remains the priority.

“We have distance seating in-person worship on Sundays, but we also offer YouTube and livestreaming on Facebook,” she said. “We have an overflow space in our chapel so we can make sure everyone is distanced correctly if that is needed.”

The series will start on Sunday, December 6 and conclude on Sunday, December 27. Services take place at 10:45 a.m. on Sundays. On December 6, topics will include Census, Tax, Oil and Wine; on December 13, the subject will be Fish, Salt, Bread and Synagogue; December 20 will be titled Inn, Carpenter, Cloth Dyer and Pottery; the Christmas Eve service on December 24 will focus on the Shepherds and Manger; and, finally, December 27 will be titled Wise Men, Cross and Tomb.

For more information and schedule of the modified version of Walk Thru Bethlehem, visit www.bethekingsavenue.com or call the church at 684-9453. Kings Avenue Baptist Church is located at 2602 S Kings Ave. in Brandon.