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The Rev. Dr. Dianne Shields understands this. Shields became a pastor at Arlington Heights First Presbyterian in 1991. She calls her religious politics "moderately liberal." She studied her New Testament at McCormick Theological Seminary and has preached her share of scholarly sermons on the Magi and the meaning of Mary's answer to Gabriel.
But during the Christmas pageant rehearsal on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, she was not concerned with any of that. Instead, she was unpacking a shimmering, silver gown with two large cardboard wings trimmed with gold stars that she will Velcro to her shoulders a couple of weeks from now. A floral wreath, spray-painted gold, will bedeck her head. All eyes will be upon her. But the costume will not be the draw. In the Arlington Heights pageant, she will play the angel who carries the baby Jesus to the manger at the front of the sanctuary.
Last year she had a chance to move up to a singing part. Another pastor retired, and Shields was in line to become a wise man. She declined. "I wouldn't give up my angel role," she says. The mother of three grown children, she thrives on the long walk up the center aisle, the infant in her arms. "I love holding the baby," who this year will be 5-month-old Emma Zintara, Shields says.
"I walk very slowly, so that everyone can see her and touch her." And as they do, many will cry out, if only silently within their hearts, Hallelujah! --With reporting by Broward Liston/Orlando, Amanda Bower/ New York, Helen Gibson/London and Marguerite Michaels/Arlington Heights