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Pastor shares Nativity passion

Morning Journal/Danielle Garner Pastor Kari Lankford sits in front of one of the nativity scenes included in the tour of nearly 250 nativity sets. She has collected nativity sets for thirty years and enjoys sharing her handcrafted displays with the public. Lankford’s tour spans across six rooms filled with a variety of unique pieces every family member can enjoy.

LEETONIA– Local residents wanting to observe the holidays through the lens of the Christian faith and those who enjoy nativity displays are invited to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church at 29 Spruce Street until the week before Christmas.

The display is open to the public Wednesdays from 6 until 7 p.m. on Dec. 1, 8, 15, and 22 and Saturdays from 4 until 5 p.m. Dec. 4, 11 and 18.

Pastor Kari Lankford can be contacted for tours by calling the church at 330-427-6585 or 330-427-6592.

Lankford has a collection of over 200 nativity sets ranging across six rooms. She has counted nearly 251 nativity sets and has even included a display filled with interactive nativity scenes young ones can enjoy.

Lankford strives to create a display filled with a variety of nativity scenes and occasionally gets help from her husband who has located several of her favorite nativity sets.

“The really unique ones are from my husband,” Lankford remarks.

Lankford has been collecting nativity sets for 30 years, saying she is a pastor and wanted to collect something. She recalls always enjoying nativity sets.

“I displayed them in my house for the longest time,” she said.

Lankford’s collection of nativity sets expanded so intensely she moved her displays to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church an estimated six years ago.

Lankford’s collection increases with help from church members, friends, family members and community connections.

“Nothing typical, if you got me a nativity set it had to be different,” Lankford said.

Lankford has bought a nativity set from as far as Israel. She has been to Israel in both 2006 and 1996.

“You go to Bethlehem and you’re going to buy a nativity set,” she commented.

Lankford invests roughly 100 hours of labor setting up the expansive display of nativity sets. She carefully unpacks delicate pieces in boxes and enlists help from church members, family and friends. The display is carefully organized in labeled boxes complete with photographs of the pieces.

“The first part is hauling everything out of the closet and getting all the extra tables set up,” she explained.

Lankford says the process of setting up the nativity sets is intensive. She compares constructing the displays to her experience in theater. Lankford to the display to increase the amount of characters and features. She also changes the location of elements each year to refresh the experience.

Lankford invites anyone attending a Wednesday tour to join her for services afterwards.

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