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Tour shows holiday flair

December 20, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Seven Hagerstown houses of worship opened their doors to the public Sunday as part of a holiday celebration in which the public can see the buildings decked out in their holiday best.

More than 40 people took the opportunity to visit Trinity Lutheran Church, Zion Evangelical and Reformed Church, John Wesley United Methodist Church, Christ's Reformed Church, Otterbein United Methodist Church, Congregation B'Nai Abraham and St. John's Lutheran Church.

The event, which raised between $250 and $300 in donations for the Cold Weather Shelter last year, was organized by The Rev. Stephen D. Robison of Otterbein United Methodist Church. This year's donations will go to Hagerstown's Community Free Clinic, which provides medical care for the uninsured or unemployed of Washington County.

Robison said he patterned the event after tours held in Frederick, Md., and Martinsburg, W.Va.

Holding the open house for the public allows those who do not belong to a house of worship to come inside and meet members and clergy in an informal manner, he said.

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The tour "provides witness to the joy and blessings of life," said Robison, who has been with Otterbein for 14 years.

Each church or synagogue decided which areas of its building would be open to the public and whether to provide music or refreshments, he said.

Tour committee members at Otterbein decorated the church with holiday garland and ribbon.

Built in 1909, Trinity Lutheran Church features an organ with 3,000 pipes and a hand-carved oak base.

The church, with its 45-foot domed ceiling and arches, also has elaborate stained-glass windows depicting the articles of the Apostle's creed.

A 14-foot tall Christmas tree decorates the side of the altar where hand-beaded, painted and cross-stiched ornaments have been placed.

Visitors to Christ's Reform Church learned the building was built in the early 1900s and its altar was moved from the right side of the church to the rear to accommodate its growing congregation in 1938.

The church, which started with just a handful of members, now has 662, said the Rev. Don R. Stevenson.

Stevenson said he felt it was important "to be community oriented" and take part in the open house tours.

"I think it's one of the most beautiful churches in the city - but of course I'm a little prejudiced," said Vivian Strunk, former church secretary.

A member of Christ's Reformed Church for about 50 years, Strunk said the church holds a special place in her heart.

"I have come here a number of times when my life was in crisis, and I have always found peace," she said.

Parishioners Darlene Smith and Sandy Shirley displayed their musical talents during the tour, singing and performing Christmas songs on a baby grand piano and harpsichord.

Christ's Reformed Church, which was completed in 1895, was the fourth stop in the tour for Daisy Fitz of Maugansville and Doris Brumbaugh of Hagerstown. The friends said they enjoyed visiting each of the churches and viewing the holiday decorations.

"I think they are just beautiful," said Fitz.

"It puts you in the Christmas spirit," said Brumbaugh.

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