By Teri S. Merrill
Special to The Winchester Star
The service at the mid-19th century church in Millwood is held without electricity, heat or running water, according to Ian Williams, president of the Old Bethel Memorial Association Inc.
The service hearkens back to a simpler time and captures the spirit of Christmas from 150 years ago, as it's virtually unchanged with the use of candles and oil lamps, and lessons and carols that are very traditional, he said.
Anywhere from 200 to 300 people attend the church service each year on Route 625 in Clarke County.
Many of those who attend do so annually, because they know they can take time out from the busyness of the world and enter into a place that is hushed and very peaceful, said Williams.
They can reflect on the true meaning of the holiday in a calm and graceful environment, he said.
The program will again feature the 6th Dimension Handbell Choir, which will perform a prelude, two separate pieces, and a postlude.
The service will be led by the Rev. Karin MacPhail from the Episcopal Cunningham Chapel Parish in Millwood.
Those who attend are encouraged to dress warmly, including hats and gloves, because the old church is very cold, he said. The service typically runs about 25 minutes.
People from various religious backgrounds will feel comfortable at the service, because it's intended to be nondenominational. There's a lot of enthusiasm from those who attend about the simplicity and cheerfulness of the service, he said.
Old Bethel was a Baptist Church from the 1850s, but it has been nondenominational since the 1940s. Before the Baptist era, a long-gone Quaker meeting house was also at the site.
The property is now held in a trust for the use of citizens in Clarke County, said Williams. An annual meeting and morning prayer service is held in August, and the church is used for occasional weddings and special events throughout the year.
Bethel can be reached from Winchester by traveling east on U.S. 50 to Kennel Road (Route 625) opposite Mountain View Motel. Turn right, then make anther 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.
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