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O Come All Ye Faithful

(From The Winchester Star dated 17 12mo 2012.)

O Come All Ye Faithful

Posted: Monday, December 17, 2012.
The Winchester Star

Linda Hansen (above) of Berryville awaits the start of the annual Lessons and Carols candlelight service Sunday evening at Old Bethel Church near Millwood. Dedicated in 1830, the structure has no electricity, heat or running water. Below, worshippers sing “Silent Night.” (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)

     Millwood - A cold drizzle was falling in Clarke County shortly after sunset Sunday.

     But more than 100 visitors who came to Old Bethel Church for its annual Lessons and Carols candlelight service found plenty of holiday warmth.

     The church, which was built in the 19th century, has no electricity, running water or heat, and people huddled together as the service began almost completely coated in darkness.

     Those in attendance sang “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “The First Noel.”

     Once they launched into “Silent Night, Holy Night,” light began to spread through the church as a flame was passed from candle to candle.

     The emergence of light was a fitting moment for the message of the evening.

     “Scatter the darkness of sin and fill your heart with joy,” said the Rev. Karin MacPhail from the Episcopal Cunningham Chapel Parish in Millwood, who led the interdenominational service.

     For many in attendance, the meagerness of the church is a drawing point.

     “We’re all antiquarians in Clarke County,” said Bob Randolph. “It’s great to keep in touch with the way people lived in the 19th century without heat, electricity or water.”

     Randolph’s daughter-in-law, Olivia Ellis, was also in attendance, and the Texas native was amazed.

     “It’s so quaint and remarkable, especially for this time of year,” she said. “We don’t have many things like this in Texas.”

     For Ann Brown, a Millwood native who now lives in Westchester, Pa., the candlelight service is a reunion with friends and family, much the way the church site was originally a Quaker meeting house but became a Baptist church in the 1830s.

     Brown was there with Millwood resident Cary Embury, a friend from childhood.

     “We’ve been going to church together since we were kids,” Brown said.

— Contact Conor Gallagher at

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