Holland College students help restore church nativity scene

·2 min read

A nativity scene dating back more than a century has been restored by students in the heritage retrofit carpentry program at Holland College.

The scene is set up every December inside the place of worship, near the altar at St. Augustine's Church in Rustico — but the large manger building which surrounds baby Jesus, and numerous other figurines and animals, was getting fragile.

Treasurer of the Church, Les Standen, said on Monday the church is grateful to see it restored.

"The condition was declining very quickly," Standen said. "It's such an important part of our Christmas celebrations."

He said the display was literally falling apart and the church was thrilled to get it done in time for midnight mass this year.

"They refurbished it and did some marvellous work," he said. "It makes it so authentic."

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

The church had asked for help last year, but staff with the heritage retrofit program said some COVID-19 delays meant the project took longer than expected. The nativity scene was not used at the church in 2019.

Josh Silver, learning manager for the heritage retrofit carpentry program at Holland College, said they really wanted to make sure they got the project done in time for Christmas of 2020.

"It is a gorgeous piece, a work of art, but it's 100 plus years old," Silver said.

He said they removed some non-period appropriate materials that had been added over the years but didn't match the original design. They then used historically accurate materials in the re-build such as forged rod iron nails, plaster and rough sawn wood.

Josh Silver/Submitted
Josh Silver/Submitted

He said about 25 per cent of it needed to be re-built.

"We restored it right back to it's original form," said Silver.

Students volunteered their time and the church covered the cost of the materials.

"This project was above and beyond our curriculum, so the students volunteered to to this work before and after school and during lunch hours,"

He said it's nice to give back to the community and he called it a "really engaging project."

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Silver said it felt magical to work on the nativity scene and an honour to work on pieces in the community so historical.

"It gives me the chills thinking about it,"

The heritage retrofit carpentry program also built a custom storage case which should help protect it in the years to come.

'It's not a simple thing'

Standen said you could tell it was done by people who cared and said members of the church are impressed with how the nativity scene still has its historical appearance but is now much sturdier.

"It's not a simple thing," said Standen.

'It was the youth that stepped up and did a wonderful job," he said.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

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