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Pastor Neil Allen with one of his favorite nativity sets, a scene carved in the 1950s from a single piece of Brazilian walnut by Ecuadoran artist Victor Delatorre.

The Christmas season is fast approaching, and Hood River Valley Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is offering a unique invitation to people of all ages throughout the Columbia Gorge.

Nativity scenes (crèches) depict the birth of Jesus Christ — and from those simple origins comes a world of diversity in which Neil Allen has acquired great expertise.

Allen, a retired pastor with the Christian church, began collecting nativity scenes from around the world more than 30 years ago. The traveling Allen Collection, owned by Neil and Nora Allen of Beaverton, has been viewed by more than 30,000 visitors. It has been featured on National Public Radio, by the Associated Press and by local news, TV and radio as well as national publications. Several of his handcrafted sets are from the Holy Land, and some of them have been featured in national exhibits.

Allen’s entire collection of nativity scenes — numbering somewhere close to 500 — will soon be on display at HRVCC in the Fellowship Hall. All are welcomed and encouraged to come and enjoy these beautiful, diverse works of art any time from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. daily Thursday, Dec. 5 through Sunday, Dec. 8. Allen, who will be present throughout to greet guests and answer questions, welcomes the opportunity to share his lifelong passion.

“Pastor Allen is bringing an extraordinary opportunity to each of us here in the Gorge,” said Alicia Speidel, pastor of HRVCC. “His collection features several sets from San Antonio, Ibarra, Ecuador — a carving community established by the Spanish in 1525 to create art for local churches. Each nativity scene in the collection holds its own story, and we are so fortunate he is bringing them here. All are welcome to come and enjoy his amazing collection and share in his journey.”

Allen serves on the board and is webmaster for “Friends of the Creche,” the only national collectors’ association in the U.S. and Canada. The Allens also manage “Nativity Collections” Facebook page and will host the 2021 Friends of the Creche Convention in Portland on Nov. 4-5, 2021.

Hood River Valley Christian Church is located at 975 Indian Creek Road.

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