Annual church tour remains popular attraction

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 14, 2004

'Twas a peaceful night in Ironton as people stepped back in time, led by sounds of the season drifting sweetly in the crisp December air.

The Lawrence County Historical Society sponsored its annual Candlelight Christmas Tour of area churches Saturday. More than 150 people tread the paths led by historical society members dressed in period costumes.

"It gets people acquainted with historical churches in the area," said Naomi Deer, parliamentarian for the historical society. "Some people never get the opportunity to go into these churches, so this offers them the chance to see the churches they may pass by every day."

Email newsletter signup

The tour began at First Baptist Church and continued to Christ Episcopal, First United Methodist, First Presbyterian, St. Lawrence O'Toole, St. Paul Lutheran and Gateway Baptist. It ended with refreshments at the museum

The historic structures hold a special fascination for Donna Purdue of Ironton.

"This is my third tour," Purdue said smiling. "I've been here three years. I like it so much I come back every year."

She and sister Betty Malone of Waterloo said they had never been in any of the churches prior to going on the tour. But they loved what they saw and heard, from the soaring ceilings of the church sanctuaries to the imposing pipe organs.

"We like the traditional Christmas songs that everyone knows," Malone said. "I just loved all of it."

Carolers accompanied tourists to each of the churches, singing old familiar favorites. Ohio University Southern's Activity Band, led by Pat McCoy, offered their brass renditions of holiday tunes.

At each stop along the way, clergy or lay members described their congregation's history and shared special Christmas messages in word and song.

Each of these individuals clearly had a special affection for the buildings in which they serve. One of those, Wayne E. Young, is First United Methodist Church's pastor. The church was built in 1893.

"I'm just a kid compared with this building," he said laughing. "ŠJust because this building is old, doesn't mean the congregation inside has retired. We're very much alive and well."

The tour is also thriving, thanks to the significant attendance of this year's event.

"It was a very good turnout," Deer said. "(Turnout) depends on the weather and thankfully, the weather cooperated with us this year."