GPC’s heritage: Advent decorations

Jill Fri and Ann Hale Johnson, Heritage Committee Members

The fourth Sunday before Christmas is the start of Advent. You’ll see things changing as we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The first Sunday, you will see the purple markers in the pulpit bible as well as the purple stoles the ministers wear. The Advent wreath is up front for the children to light each Sunday before Christmas, and wreaths are hung over the doors.

The Advent Star, which was given to us by Helen H. Ringe in memory of her nephew, Robert Hopson Larcher who died in 1961 at the age of 28. I can find no written record of the star, nor do I know who the artist who made it, but, Bill Watkins, then our music director, remembered Dr. Stroup telling the story that Helen had it made using railroad-tie spikes to symbolize the working life of Christ.

The figurines of the nativity scene in the Chapel were made by Mrs. Wilbur (Betty) Eskite and her mother, and given to Dr. Stroup on Christmas Eve in 1957 to be used by the church. I have showed the figurines to several professionals and they have been surprised at their beauty. They have been used every Christmas since, along with the stable made by Mr. Louie Pimper in 1959. Mr. Pimper joined our church on March 12, 1905 and died November 5, 1976.

The Christmas tree is usually put up in the Colonial Room. In the early 70s, the high school group used to troop out to the Weyl farm and walk for hours looking for just the right tree.

The Sunday before Christmas, everyone would come back to church in the afternoon.   Presents for FLOC were under the tree, the men would put lights on the tree. The Senior High made cookies and hot chocolate, the Junior High would pass popcorn. Everyone sang carols. When it was getting dark, the children would present the Christmas Pageant and, we would hear the jingling bells of Santa on his way to give gifts to the children.

St. Nicholas Day Dinner took the place of the Christmas Party in the 80s. The children still do their program at the Christmas Eve candlelight family service, and they still participate in the lighting of the Advent candles during each Sunday of Advent.

We have always had beautiful music from our choir. I remember twice doing the “Ceremony of the Carols” during the Sunday Service. When we had the Bridge Street Players we did “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” Since 1999 we have had the “Gifts for Christ” market.

Over the years, we have celebrated together Advent and the birth of Christ. Come to church! See what we are doing this year. Things are bound to be a little different.

Jill Fri
Heritage Committee Member