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Beauty of the divine: A tour of 10 Hagerstown churches set for Dec. 26

December 21, 2011|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE | crystal.schelle@herald-mail.com


By nightfall Monday, Dec. 26, the Christmas gifts have been unwrapped, the leftovers have been devoured and out-of-town guests have bid farewell.

But an area group is hoping that the spirit of Christmas lingers for one more evening as 10 Hagerstown churches host the Christmas Tour of Historic Hagerstown Churches. The free tour is from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday.

Bruce Massey of Hagerstown, a member of St. John's Episcopal Church and assistant director for administration at the Washington County Department of Social Services, said the idea of the church tour was inspired by Frederick, Md.

"I have been a long-time admirer of Frederick community for its church tour," he said.

Massey said he thought "what a shame Hagerstown doesn't have a downtown walking tour because the churches are so nice here."

With the help of fellow St. John's Episcopal members Deanna Soulis and Pat Abeles, both of Hagerstown, the trio asked other churches in late October to join them.

At the planning meeting in mid-November, Massey said they were happy to see that nine downtown churches had sent a representative. Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, located on Cleveland Avenue, asked to be added later.

"We had a real committed effort by the churches," Soulis said.

The evening will start with all of the churches ringing their bells before the tour officially kicks off at 5 p.m. Then the churches will open their doors.

"It's very exciting and a wonderful event for Hagerstown," Soulis said.

Massey suggested people start the tour at St. John's Episcopal because of the church's ample free parking as well as the free trolley shuttle will start and end at the church.

However, Massey said, visitors are allowed to start at any church among the 10 participants. The use of the trolley, which was sponsored by the Jeff Warren Family and Potomac Construction, will stop at each church, allowing tourists the chance to hop on or off at any time.

Most of the tour, Massey said, will be in a two-block radius of Public Square. And the Hagerstown-Washington County CVB has published a brochure with a map of the tour, which is available at any of the churches.

Abeles said Tom Riford, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau and his staff, have helped a lot in the process of the tour this first year.

She said she hopes that the tour will get a large draw this year and encourage the CVB to continue supporting the tour.

Although the tour is of churches at the Christmas season, Massey said the tour isn't overtly religious or theological in nature.

Instead, there will be a docent at each church who will point out historical and architectural elements.


Soulis said she was eager to see inside many of the churches, some of which have Tiffany stained glass windows.

"Perhaps people will see the beauty of the churches' architecture," she said.

And those who need something to drink or a sweet may visit The Miller House, 135 W. Washington St., where staff will serve refreshments during the tour hours.

"The tour is informal, with no set program," Massey said.

Two churches, Zion Reformed United Church of Christ and St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, were founded in the mid-1700s.

Washington County was founded in 1762, and officially recognized as a county by the Maryland State Convention in 1776.

"There are a lot of diversely beautiful churches in the area," Abeles said.

Massey said many of the churches, including St. John's Episcopal, will have fresh greenery, so having the tour on Monday will give visitors time to enjoy the decorations' fragrance.

On Monday, Massey, Soulis and Abeles will pass out eight glass luminiarias, which will be lit and on display in front of every church and the Miller House.

At 8:15 p.m., following the tour, St. John's Episcopal's organist has prepared a selection and there will be singing of Christmas carols.

Abeles said she hopes that people will get of feeling of "'Oh, what a nice community. What a welcoming community. What a historic community we have.'"

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If you go...  

WHAT: Christmas Tour of Historic Hagerstown Churches

WHEN: 5 to 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 26

WHERE: Ten area churches in Hagerstown:


  •   Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, 216 N. Cleveland Ave.
  •   Church of the Brethren, 15 S. Mulberry St.
  •   John Wesley United Methodist Church, 129 N. Potomac St.
  •   Otterbein United Methodist Church, 108 E. Franklin St.
  •   The Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown, 20 S. Prospect St.
  •   St. Mary Catholic Church, 224 W. Washington St.
  •   St. John's Episcopal Church, 101 S. Prospect St.
  •   St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, 141 S. Potomac St.
  •   Trinity Lutheran Church, 15 Randolph Ave.
  •   Zion Reformed United Church of Christ, 201 N. Potomac St.
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