As one slowly steps into the Old Salem Church, memories of yesteryears usually flood the mind.
On Sunday, December 3, the Christmas season was welcomed in as over 80 Craig County citizens filled the quaint church on Route 42 with standing room only. One couple, Joe and Linda London, Gertrude Lowery’s daughter, drove all the way in from North Carolina for the special occasion.
People who have that “wonder” of what Christmas would have been like 100 years ago can easily see for themselves the immediate gesture of the “olden days.” No electricity or running water is in the church, just an old stove and the outhouse in the backyard for easy access.
The warmth of the heat from the old stove made one’s shiver immediately disappear. Candles were dimly lit in the antique chandeliers hanging from above and placed in each window sill.
Happy welcomes were met with hugs and handshakes. “I’ve been coming to this annual Christmas candlelight service for many years,” several shared.
The evening started at 5 p.m. with delicious snacks and hot apple cider, however, the church was almost full at that time. It was obvious that this was a Christmas event that many would not miss.
Jean Bradley, coordinator of the evening, and her family made sure everything was ready for the Annual Candlelight Community Service. The cedar Christmas tree which Donnie Carper donated, gave the room a sweet aroma of ‘the good ole days,’ according to one attendee. Ralph and Mike Bradley set up the tree and Jean, and Kathy Jones decorated it. “These are all homemade decorations by our departed Lois Jean Francisco Elmore,” Bradley said.
This year’s Christmas program was dedicated to the memory of Lois Elmore. The printed program had several pictures of the many trees that she had decorated each year, along with other beautiful flower arrangements and décor she always seemed to add. “She was our Christmas person,” Bradley shared with everyone. “We really do miss her.”
Don Ford opened with prayer and Cody Rader, Pastor of New Castle Christian Church and D.R. Looney, led everyone in some old time Christmas favorites. At the end of the song, The First Noel, Rader had everyone sing a cappella. The beauty of the voices seemed to echo in an angelic way.
Billy Frazier, Pastor of Forks of John’s Creek Christian Church, gave a message on ‘The Light.’ He shared that there were many symbols of ‘light’ that we recognize, especially at this time of year with the Christmas lights. And, that one of the reasons we like the light is because it eliminates darkness.
He spoke about the different lights in the Bible with the shepherds seeing the light of the angels. He explained that Light is life, it reveals things, it illuminates and exposes the truth and it symbolizes beauty and joy. “Have you ever been dazzled by a sunrise or sunset?” he asked.
“Christmas is about God’s light piercing the darkness,” Frazier shared. “There was darkness for three hours when Jesus was crucified on the cross.” He continued, saying that, “Jesus is the Light of the world, from the beginning in Genesis 1:1 in creating the light to Revelation 22:5, where there will be no more darkness at all and Jesus becomes THE Light for all. Don’t fail to give the gift of Jesus, the life and truth and Light to people this Christmas.”
The evening ended with the beautiful melody of Silent Night. Each person had been given a candle upon entering, and one by one people lit a candle.
“We will keep doing this until we don’t have anyone come,” Bradley shared. “This was the most we have ever had,” Bradley added that in the spring, they would have a work day to clean the church, paint the rails, doors and windows sills and wash windows. “And for anyone who is brave enough to get in the attic, we need some caulking sprayed.”
Anyone who knows the church knows that for some reason, many generations of bats have called the church their home for years.
Still, as people slowly left, one could almost feel the sincere love many shared for the old church, but mostly for the ones who made it have its warmth.