Rae and George French take the reins, hope community group will take lead next year.

    The Stable Communion service is making a grand return this Christmas season, to the University of Minnesota, Crookston campus stables for the first time since 2008, with two services taking place, on Dec. 21 and 22.

    "People were really wondering if we could ever bring it back," said Rae French, who works with study abroad programs at UMC.

    French, along with her husband, George, associate professor in the UMC Music and Theater Department, are organizing and coordinating the service. However, the Frenches aren't taking all of the credit. Ron Del Vecchio, a professor in the campus University Teaching and Outreach Center, was a key part in getting the deal done.

    "He was a big reason of why we could do it this year," Rae French explained. "We talked last spring about doing this, and, lo and behold, he said it's a go; we can use the facility."

    There has also been a lot of help from the community. The Presbyterian Bell Ringers will be participating, there will be soloists, along with a large community choir, and several area pastors have been helping in putting together the Christmas story that will be told at the service. "I think the important thing to know is that this isn't a two person deal," Rae French said. "It's really about people coming together."

    The theme for this year's program is "Prince of Peace." Rae French said that even though the staging will be set up differently than in the past, all of the old favorites will be back, including a descending angel, a live Nativity with a family of role-players and live stable animals. There will even be a petting zoo for children.
    So why put forth so much effort to bring the service back?

 "People were missing the whole spirit of the area. They were missing the ambiance of the setting, seeing a live baby," Rae French said. "It really became a part of their traditions that they have established with their families."

    As for organizing it for next year, the couple said they won't lead the effort again. Instead, "we hope that just more people take ownership in it and know what's happening and are having just as much fun as we are with all of that and will want to get their families involved," Rae French said.

    The Stable Communion will be open to the public and people of all faiths are welcome. The Friday, Dec. 21 service will begin at 7 p.m. in the UTOC arena, with the Saturday service beginning at 2 p.m. Proceeds from a free will offering will be donated to the local food shelf.