Saturday, December 15, 2007

Oak Grove Living Christmas Tree

This is the time of year for many churches across America to erect elaborate scaffolding in the shape of a Christmas tree for their annual Christmas presentations. One of the largest singing Christmas trees is at the Oak Grove Baptist Church in Bel Air, Maryland. The church has performed the Living Christmas Tree 23 years in a row! This unique outreach started in 1985 by music director Ken Tipton with the purpose of reaching the community with the message of Christmas. "This is not just a job, for us it’s a ministry. We do this so we can carry the true message of Christmas, that Jesus Christ came into this world as a baby child to live that through him we to could live," Tipton said in a 1994 interview. That purpose holds true today with the new choir director Steve Poole.

The tree was designed by Bob Wilson, an electrical engineer and member of Oak Grove. It is 37 feet tall and is topped with an eleven foot lighted star illuminated by thousands of lights. The tree has held over 100 singers during the varying themes presented each year. During the 23 years an estimated 200,000 people have attended the event that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. This year the decorations and lighting are by Louise Gentry and Lois Stagnoli. The hundreds of thousands of lights on the tree are controlled in a manner that changes the lighting according to the music. In addition to the choir, that begins practice in July, there are hundreds of behind the scenes people who make the presentation happen. This years presentation was "The Gift" arranged by Lari Goss with drama by Steve Poole. A live praise band accompanies many of the songs. There is no charge for admission; however, tickets are required in order to make certain seating is available. Each approximately 10,000 tickets are distributed to the church and community.