Mary belongs to Katrina Revels, the founder of Noah's Ark, a local group that uses animals to minister to people, and that hosts the live nativity scene each year on Main Street.
CLAYTON -- While some young people stock food pantries or collect clothes or canned foods to earn community-service hours, one Clayton High student donned a bathrobe and a shepherd’s staff at the town’s live nativity scene.
“I’m doing it for the ROTC,” said Shawn Neilson, 14.
The practical-minded teen said he needed 10 hours of community service and could get four of those at once with the live nativity. The chilly nighttime air didn’t bother him.
“I get a robe and a sheep,” Neilson said. “I’m good.”
When he signed up to volunteer, Neilson didn’t know which nativity role he would be asked to play. He said if he showed up and found out he was to be baby Jesus, he wouldn’t have taken it as well. “I’d take it as a short joke,” said Neilson, who considers himself short for his age.
Dressed in a striped bath robe with a cloth over his head, he didn’t appear at all bothered by the duties of being a shepherd. He seemed to be a natural.
Hundreds of children came up to him to pet his sheep as he stood patiently stood with the members of the nativity-scene cast.
“Her name is Mary,” said fellow shepherd James Revels, 15, as he pointed at the sheep. He is a friend of Neilson’s and a veteran of the live nativity. Unlike Neilson, who was new at this, Revels has been dressing up as different members of the nativity for the past five years.
“This year we have a 3-week-old llama here,” Revels said. “It’s his first time.”
His mother, Katrina Revels, the founder of Noah’s Ark ministry, started the live nativity downtown five years ago.
All of the animals in the nativity come from Revels’ farm off of Winston Road. There were two donkeys, two llamas and two sheep in the nativity, but there are dozens more on the farm.
“We are using God’s animals to share God’s love with people,” Katrina Revels said. The Noah’s Ark ministry holds events on the farm as well as in town. “Sometimes churches borrow a donkey or a sheep for an event,” she said.
Visitors stopped by the live nativity in the lawn of Sherry’s Signature Cheesecakes from 6 to 8:30 p.m. There was a line to wait to get a chance to see Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus up close.
The live nativity takes place annually during the Christmas Village at 120 E. Main St.