Envisioning the Nativity

Father Dave Rogerson and his Nativity collection at St. Barbara Parish in Black Diamond. Photo: Janis Olson Father Dave Rogerson and his Nativity collection at St. Barbara Parish in Black Diamond. Photo: Janis Olson

Father Dave Rogerson’s crèche collection reflects ‘universal nature of our faith’

With more than 1,000 crèches from over 90 countries in his collection, it’s clear that Father Dave Rogerson has a thing about Nativity scenes.

He’s been an avid collector for more than 15 years, searching online or in thrift shops for his next find. Father Rogerson also carves and crafts Nativity scenes from materials as varied as zebrawood and kitchen utensils.

Since becoming pastor of St. Barbara Parish in Black Diamond three years ago, though, Father Rogerson has had to cut back on his acquisitions.

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An aboriginal Nativity scene. Photo: Father Dave Rogerson

“I kind of keep an eye out, but I try to stop because storage here is very limited,” he explained. “Unless I really like it, I don’t go near anymore.”

In fact, Father Rogerson left about half his collection behind at St. Jude Parish in Redmond, where he was pastor for 12 years. The tradition of an annual display of Nativity scenes continues at St. Jude, and was adopted at St. Barbara after his arrival (see box).

‘Universal nature’

Father Rogerson doesn’t remember being overly fascinated with his family’s traditional Nativity scene while growing up. “I certainly enjoyed it,” he said, “but I also enjoyed the year my younger, more mischievous brother snuck a toy army man into the Nativity scene.”

While studying theology in Rome in the mid-1970s, he acquired a couple of Nativity sets. But Nativity scenes were cast in a new light when he spotted handcrafted crèches at a Kennedy High School Christmas bazaar. “They weren’t the ones you saw at Penney’s and Sears,” Father Rogerson said.

He got serious about collecting while pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Battle Ground. He went to the nearby Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to check out its display of 200 Nativity sets.

“I had no idea such variety existed,” Father Rogerson said. “It was a visual statement of the universal nature of our faith, as many lands, peoples and perspectives were represented.”

If the LDS church could put together such a display, he thought, why couldn’t a Catholic church do the same?

Today, at St. Barbara and St. Jude, about one-third of their collections are displayed each year. That keeps it fresh for visitors who return next Christmas season.

Father Dave Rogerson at work
Father Dave Rogerson at work on a Nativity scene. Photo: Jean Parietti

Handcrafted

A woodworker, Father Rogerson has crafted at least three-dozen Nativity sets and wall hangings for his collection. He designed one set of Nativity figures with the help of books on aboriginal art. Another Nativity scene is carved into the center of a wooden bowl he found at a thrift shop.

Father Rogerson also likes to experiment with materials that are, well, a bit unusual for a Nativity scene — such as salt and pepper shakers and kitchen utensils (the angel is a corkscrew with its “wings” extended).

Touring Father Rogerson’s collections, you also might see Nativity scenes other artists have made of Mount St. Helens ash, Legos, ivory or even chocolate — “just about anything you can think of,” he said. The Nativity can be expressed in so many “diverse, clever, insightful and faith-filled ways,” he said.

Father Rogerson enjoys listening to people’s comments as they wander through the annual exhibit, which runs through Epiphany (Jan. 8 this year) at St. Barbara.

“Some enjoy it almost on the level of a children’s fantasy land,” the priest said. “Others are attracted to seeing how various peoples envision Jesus and the Nativity scene in the same color skin or their own heritage background.”

Visit the Nativity displays

View displays of Father Dave Rogerson’s Nativity scene collection at:

St. Barbara Church, 32416 Sixth Ave., Black Diamond. Open Dec. 18 through Epiphany (Jan. 8), before and after Masses.
Mass times: Saturday, 5:30 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.

St. Jude Church, 10526 166th Ave. N.E., Redmond. For dates and hours, visit stjude-redmond.org.

Click to enlarge image St.BarbaraBlackDiamondWA-12.jpg

Gallery: Father Dave Rogerson’s crèche collection

Northwest Catholic - December 2016

Jean Parietti

Jean Parietti is the local news editor for NWCatholic.org and features editor for Northwest Catholic magazine. You can reach her at jean.parietti@seattlearch.org.
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Jean Parietti es editora local para el sitio web NWCatholic.org y destacada editora de la revista Noroeste Católico/Northwest Catholic. Pueden contactarle en: jean.parietti@seattlearch.org.