Her first nativity scene was purchased, appropriately enough, in Bethlehem. Marilyn Leach's mother bought her one from Bethlehem and another one in Switzerland in the early 1970s.
But it wasn't until after her children bought her another creche to replace a broken glass-blown angel that Leach started actively to collect creches from around the world.
She now has more than 60 handmade nativity scenes which will be on display from 4-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at her home at 408 N. 5th St. in Marshall.
Photo by Karin Elton
The Rev. Marilyn Leach will open up her home to the community next week to show her eclectic collection nativities from around the world. Some of Leach’s nativity scenes include those from (from left) Haiti, Nepal and Kenya.
The event is part of the 2011 Tour for the Season from the Nativity to the Victorian - a fundraiser to raise money for a ramp to make St. James Episcopal Church handicapped accessible.
The Victorian part of the tour is where St. James parishioner Charlotte Wendel comes in. She has a miniature Victorian village that she has set up in the basement at St. James at 101 N. 5th St. in Marshall.
Christmas music, cider and cookies will be available for a freewill donation.
Wendel started collecting the village pieces because they reminded her of happy times playing with her brother when they were children.
"My brother was given a Lionel train and I was given a plastic village," Wendel said.
The two combined the toys and made "tunnels out of rugs," she said.
The Victorian village is comprised of three cities, a harbor, an industrial area, a zoo and botanical gardens and a park.
The village takes up the Wendel family's entire dining room, but will look even better spread out in the church basement, Wendel said.
The event is for a good cause, she said.
"We have a good cross section (of parishioners) at St. James," she said. "Young and old. We are getting more disabled and handicapped and they need a ramp. They can't get in our little church."
The church is one of the oldest in Marshall and will be decorated next week in a Victorian style.
The nativity collection represents the philosophy of St. James - of inclusiveness, said the Rev. Colleen Tully.
"All over the world people celebrate Christ in different ways, but the star of the show is Jesus," said Tully. "We need to be inclusive, not stuck in our own tiny world."
Leach likes nativity scenes that "reflect the different cultures," she said.
She has a cluster of creches from Asia including Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal and China. Often the figures will have Caucasian faces, Leach said. She makes sure any ones she buys have Asian features.
"I try to find ones that aren't Caucasian looking," she said.
She has creches made from a coconut in Haiti and from a taqua nut in Honduras.
"When the nut is young, it's liquidy and people actually drink it," Leach said.
She has a creche that folds into itself and from the outside looks like a part of a tree. Other creches are carved from sea shells.
Another unusual art medium is bullet cartridges. The artist picked up bullet cartridges from the streets in Liberia after civil unrest and wanted to make something good from something bad, Leach said.
A creche from an artist in Kyrgyzstan was bought through a dealer in Salt Lake City, Utah.
"He makes sure most of the money from the sale - minus shipping and handling - goes to the artist," Leach said.