By Stephanie M. Mangino
The Winchester Star
MILLWOOD —The spirit of Christmas will be celebrated Sunday without electricity, heat, or running water.
At Old Bethel, a mid-19th century church in Millwood, people with gather to sing traditional hymns and hear the story of Jesus Christ's birth at the Annual Lessons and Carols Candlelight Service.
The program, which begins at 5 p.m., will feature the 6th Dimension Handbell Choir and soloist Debbie Piplani, a vocalist at Calvary Episcopal Church in Front Royal, said Ian Williams, president of the Old Bethel Memorial Association Inc.
Her voice is highly acclaimed, according to Williams, and she will sing an a cappella version of "O Holy Night."
Both Piplani and the handbell group were scheduled to appear at the service last year but didn't, because that service was the first-ever snowed out, according to Williams' memory. He has been involved with Lessons and Carols since its inception about 25 years ago.
The service's popularity has grown over the years, and two years ago, 250 people came to the old church on Route 625 in Clarke County.
"I think the draw is that it is a very simplistic, traditional service," Williams said.
Virtually nothing is changed from worship of the 1850s, Williams said. Back then, Old Bethel was a Baptist church, but it has been non-denominational since the 1940s, he added.
Before the Baptist era, a long-gone Quaker meeting house was also at the site.
Williams said the service "adopts the inherent . . . meaning of Christmas." There's nothing artificial, plastic, or televised. Instead, people join together in a church lit by candles and oil lanterns.
"It just makes people more soulful about Christmas," said Williams, who will also lead the service this year as a lay official.
In past years, the rector of the Episcopal Cunningham Chapel Parish had led the service, but that is not always the case, said Williams, who is also an Episcopalian and a member of the Cunningham Chapel Parish vestry.
The Rev. Anne Manson has retired from the Millwood-based parish. A permanent priest is expected to be selected in a year or more.
Bethel can be reached from Winchester by traveling east on U.S. 50 to Kennel Road (Rt. 625) opposite Mountain View Motel. Turn right, then make another right onto Swift Shoals Road (Route 622) before making an almost immediate left on Bethel Lane. The church is on the left at the top of the hill.
For more information, contact Ian Williams at 540-667-1266.
- Contact Stephanie M. Mangino at
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