By Bruce Stambaugh
Try as it might, the chilly, snowy night couldn’t dampen either the inviting luminaries or the spirits of those who participated in the second annual Candlelight Church Walk held in Millersburg, Ohio on Dec. 9.
By all accounts, the evening of touring five Millersburg churches went well, according to Kate Findley, who coordinated the event. She said with entertainment and refreshments provided, and genuine good cheer among the participants it was another successful evening.
“Despite the weather, we had a very nice evening,” Findley said. “Attendance was up from last year, and we were really pleased with the number of people from out of town who came.”
Bill and Nancy McMann of Indianapolis, Ind. were typical of those who came from a distance. They said they came specifically for the church tour and to shop.
“We stayed at the Hotel Millersburg in October,” Nancy McMann said, “and saw a pamphlet about the church walk.”
Bill McMann said he and his wife visit Holmes County once or twice a year.
“We enjoy the people and the history here,” he explained.
Local residents, like Jason and Melissa Raber of Millersburg, concurred.
“We love Millersburg,” Melissa Raber said. “We wanted to visit some of the churches that we haven’t been in.”
That seemed to the sentiment of many who attended for the first time. “We missed it last year” was heard time and again. Judging by their enthusiasm and smiles, those who attended weren’t disappointed.
Luminaries that lined the sidewalks at each of the five churches, each decorated for Christmas according to their particular church tradition, greeted tour-goers. Inside, visitors could view the church sanctuary, obtain information about the history of each church, and enjoy refreshments. Musicians and singers performed for appreciative visitors throughout the two-hour event.
Visitors were free to tour the quintet of churches in any order they wanted and at their own leisure. Millersburg churches open for the walk included Faith Lutheran, First Presbyterian, Millersburg Christian, Millersburg Mennonite and St. Peter Catholic Parish.
The tour concluded at Faith Lutheran with a concert of Christmas selections by the Walsh University Chamber Choir from North Canton. The 40-member choir attracted a standing room only crowd at the hour-long performance.
Director Dr. Britt Cooper said the troop performs one concert outside the Stark County area each year, and that they like to sing in the home community of one of the choir members. In this case, the member was Jenna Baker, who attends First Presbyterian, where her father, Jed Baker, is choir director.
Cooper taped Jenna Baker to sing a soprano solo in the performance of True Light, one of several sacred songs sung. The packed congregation rose spontaneously during the singing of Handel’s Hallelujah chorus from Messiah.
Cooper had the audience participate in the singing of several verses of traditional Christmas carols. Cooper said the chorus sang in an unfamiliar formation. Due to the limited space, the group sang in the round, standing along the walls and in front of the pulpit area of the church.
At the concert’s conclusion, the choir received a standing ovation. The crowd filed out with spirits warmed by the inspirational music, the tour and the inviting hospitality that again highlighted the Millersburg Candlelight Church Walk.
Findley said she was overwhelmed with the choir’s performance.
“After this performance, we’re not sure what we’ll do for an encore next year,” she said.