PARKERSBURG - Getting back to the true meaning of the season was the intent of a Christmas performance held Sunday at a Parkersburg area church.
First United Methodist Church on Juliana Street hosted "An Advent Celebration" Sunday along with First Presbyterian Church, also located on Juliana Street.
First United Methodist's sanctuary and the upper balcony level at 1010 Juliana St. were filled with people from around the community.
Photo by Brett Dunlap
Vicki Ferry, of Parkersburg, lights the candles at First United Methodist Church on Sunday before the start of “An Advent Celebration” at the church.
The program was a service of lessons and carols for chorus, orchestra, handbells and organ featuring First UMC Sanctuary Choir, First Presbyterian Church Choir, First UMC Handbell Choir, the Mid-Ohio Valley Ringers Ensemble, the Advent Celebration Orchestra and others.
"It is a religious service about the birth of Christ," said Jean Singer, director of music for First UMC. "We hope it brings joy to people.
"We think they need it now."
With people still focused on the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., the Rev. Damon Rhodes, pastor at First UMC, told those assembled that Sunday's program would be devoted to those who had lost their lives Friday.
The service featured a number of traditional religious Christmas songs performed by the orchestra and the combined choir, selections performed by the handbell choir and ensemble and songs, like "Joy To The World," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" which all of those assemble in the sanctuary were invited to join in and sing.
"We have congregational participation with people singing carols," Singer said. "I like that to get people involved in the singing."
The church's children put on a program detailing the birth of Christ that had a bit of a humorous slant to it.
With everything going on during the holidays and what just happened in Connecticut, people need to remember the true meaning of the season.
"It is very important, getting back to Christian values and what we believe," Singer said. "I think teaching kids about The Ten Commandments, 'Thou shalt not kill,' is important.
"There are many people who have not heard that, because they are not involved in church. We think that would instill some kind of value to life."
The point of Sunday's program was to enrich people's lives.
"It enriches my life, because I enjoy this music and I want everyone to enjoy it," Singer said. "In this time of trouble and killings, we need to find a center and I find it through music."
Phyllis Ruf, of Parkersburg, is a member at First Presbyterian and was part of the combined choir.
"(First United Methodist) invited us to come and sing with them," she said. "Everyone enjoys singing together."
The song selection and its meaning during the season were two reasons Ruf enjoyed being involved.
"It is a good time of the year to do Advent music," she said. "It always makes you feel good.
"Sometimes you get a lump in your throat because you are so moved yourself."
In addition, the choirs, the orchestra and the hand bell ringers all come from around the community, she said.
"It is like the whole community is involved in it," Ruf said. "It is wonderful."
Lynne Schwartz, of Vienna, who was also in the combined choir, said she hopes people will become inspired and the program makes their Christmas season more meaningful. The music was live and people get that sensation of hearing it fresh as it is performed and this music has special meaning for Christians.
"It is live music," she said. "It is more important to do a performance like this now as there are a lot of places trying to prevent something like this from occurring."
Barbara Reynolds, of Belpre, has family members who belong to First UMC and she was told about the music and everything.
"I am a music person," she said. "I thought it was fantastic. I loved it.
"I could have sat there another hour or two. It really told the message and the reason for the season. It puts your spirit right where it needs to be."