Away went the manger

Dear Ace: I’m a Charlottesville native who moved away for 10 years during that time a controversy over the Nativity Scene at Lee Park began. I’m wondering, what became of the statues/figures/stable/fencing, etc.?—Mary Anne Joseph

Mary Anne: Oh, how Ace loves a controversy. If there’s a conversation brewing about genetic engineering, Ace will be there. If there’s a discussion on the legalization of drugs, Ace will be there. And wherever there’s a debate about national security, well, Ace’ll be there too.

So, in the spirit—and maybe a little bit in the hope—of stirring up some trouble, Ace gave Jane Thomas, assistant director of Covenant’s lower school, a ring (on the telephone, folks. Ace is taken—with himself! Ha ha ha). Being a Charlottesville native, Ace vaguely—he was younger then, of course, and perhaps a little self-involved—remembered the nativity being turned over to TCS in the late 1980s, shortly after the school opened, because of an issue—a controversy, if you will—with the separation of church and state. Following his conversation with Jane, during which she confirmed the school’s possession of the figures, he e-mailed Janice Watson, TCS’s curriculum coordinator, who, according to Jane, has been there “a very long time.”

From there, nothing short of a constant flurry of e-mails came pouring in from TCS faculty past and present, including Pat Stouffer, who’s directed the event for seven years. In all, eight people participated in the conversation, each with additional information, each CCing the e-mail to someone new, and each with Ace in the middle sussing out the relevant information. He’s quite tired after it all.

After sifting through the muck and mire, this is what he found out: The Covenant School opened in the fall of 1985 and began the Live Nativity tradition (student and parent volunteers take 30-minute turns in elaborate costumes playing the characters). The following year, the school added the Lee Park Nativity scene to its existing one.

This year’s Live Nativity at TCS (complete with the pieces you’re concerned with —statues, figures, etc.) will take place on December 18. Plus, Jane says, the school has recently added live animals and music to the experience. And you know how Ace feels about that: Wherever there’s live animals and Christmas tunes, Ace’ll be there. 

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 19 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to

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