Numerous Loudon County churches celebrated the arrival of the Christ child with candlelight services on Christmas Eve.
“We will partake in the sacrament of holy communion, and we will light the candles and sing ‘Silent Night’,” the Rev. Kristie Banes, Trinity United Methodist pastor, said. “It’s just a time for people to come into his presence and rest.”
The service included music, the lighting of candles and the reading of a short message by Banes.
The gathering had extra meaning when those in attendance gave an offering.
“We’re also taking up an offering tonight for benevolence,” Banes said. “We help so many different people and what we found here at Trinity it’s people in transition, it’s people coming through and it’s people needing a night or two at a hotel. So the offering tonight will go to support that ministry in 2020.”
Many churches likely saw an uptick in visitation, even some from outside the congregation.
“I’ve always called them CEO Christians — Christmas, Easter and Other special occasions, especially Mother’s Day, but yes, we have that,” Banes said with a laugh. “What I really love here is that a lot of the families come in, so they’re a part of it. But we do have a quite a few people.”
Banes, like many on Christmas Eve, said the candlelight service is special.
“This is just such a holy night and just that our Lord and savior Jesus came as a baby,” she said. “We’ve had two families connected to the church have babies this month. Just the idea of counting fingers and toes just allows you to enter into this beautiful story, a mother and a father, and a very special child. This is a holy night.”
Across the county, worshippers made their way into the New Providence Baptist Church sanctuary for a candlelight service, which has been offered at least the 21 years the Rev. Mark Caldwell has been pastor.
“For us there are so much activity with the Christmas season with children’s programs and choir presentations and Christmas parties and things, it’s just very, very hectic, so this is a favorite service for us,” Caldwell said.
He considered the hour-long service “very quiet and reflective,” which he said is important at Christmas.
“We encourage the congregation to enjoy the fellowship of the church,” Caldwell said. “It’s a big crowd every year, we have it well attended, but then we just simply enjoy — we have the Lord’s supper as a part of this, we read the Christmas story and then have a couple of songs that are distributed throughout the evening.
“It’s just to reflect on what God has done this past year and what’s coming up in the coming year and it’s just to have that experience together,” he added.
This year Caldwell had no involvement in the service and instead simply worshipped.
“No question for me we involve the entire church, we have different people who lead different functions, and instead of me standing and preaching this year — in fact, I’m not even involved at all with the speaking or anything other than greeting people and inviting them to participate in the communion,” he said. “... It’s a time for my family to sit together and just reflect on the Christmas season and all the things that have happened this year.”