Christmas Eve pageant at West Tisbury Ag Hall

The Rev. Cathlin Baker and daughter Eirene Eville. — Photo by Susan Safford

We came again on Christmas Eve, as we have for nearly 20 years, to feel the spirit of the holidays through the holiday pageant at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury.

The annual event, presented by pastor Cathlin Baker and The First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, drew a crowd of more than 500 for a simple, profound service that has become the premier up-Island holiday event.

Nervous pint-sized angels and shepherds waited in the wings before the 45-minute program began, holding fluorescent candles that also served as light sabers for a couple of shepherds in flowing robes.

In the hall, friends and neighbors hugged and smiled and wished each other well.

There were hymns by the Joyful Noise Choir, a welcome invocation by the Rev. Baker, then the pageant procession entered the hall, families craning to see. Cameras flashed, video whirred, and proud grandparents murmured as the kids entered the hall to create the annual tableau under the solid beams and vaulting eaves of the massive hall.

Their pure piping voices were accompanied by choirmaster Brian Weiland, Liam Weiland, Rick Bausman, Shelagh Smiley, and Ken DeBettencourt, whose in-laws traveled from New York to see grandson Douglas in the event. “They have been hearing about it for years and just wanted to see it,” Mr. DeBettencourt said.

It was a special event also for Mr. Weiland’s daughter, Avalon, who played her harp and doubled as Mary in the tableau.

The Rev. Baker asked the gathering to remember their neighbors who are struggling in these difficult days, and the offering basket overflowed with help for the Island Food Pantry and other Island service agencies.

The finale included the lighting of small candles provided for the audience, each lit from its neighbor’s candle. Soft, powerful light emerged, illuminating the hall and the darkest nooks and crannies of the ceiling above.

Jack Shea, of Oak Bluffs, is a regular contributor to The Times.