Getting ready for Christmas

Merian Brewster helps decorate the Loudon Cumberland Presbyterian Church sanctuary.

Churches around the community celebrated the beginning of Advent and got into the Christmas spirit by decorating the building.

While some may have held a service honoring the beginning of the season, others simply came together for fellowship.

That was the case for Loudon Cumberland Presbyterian Church when a handful members gathered Nov. 27 to make the sanctuary come to life.

“At Christmas time all the symbols help to represent Christmas,” the Rev. Mark Hester, church pastor, said. “It takes a lot of work to go from nothing’s out to everything’s out all at one time, but for the season of Christmas it’s a time of preparation in the bows and the trees and the Chrismons. All these are symbols of the Christmas season to help us enhance our worship at Christmas time.

“... It’s a transitional time of moving from the end of the Christian year, which was last Sunday, to the new Christian year, which starts (Dec. 1),” he added. “This is all part of the movement toward that.”

Advent takes place Dec. 1-24.

The group for at least four decades has come together to continue the church tradition. Martha Malloy, church member, estimated it may be even longer than that.

“Used to be we did it during the day and it was the women,” Malloy said. “We got together and made wreaths. We went out and picked the dogwoods, cut the dogwoods, took all morning to make wreaths and then decorated all afternoon. Now it’s much more streamlined, and so it’s just something that has sort of had to change as society has changed and as we’ve gotten older.”

For some at the church, decorating is a time-honored tradition dating back generations, which is the case for Malloy.

“It’s a time for people to get together; they come and go,” Hester said. “They laugh, and everybody contributes — young, old. We have some youth that are meeting in the other building. When they finish they’ll be up here helping us. So it involves all ages and is open to anybody that wants to help do it.”

A few members of Refuge Church at Pleasant Hill met Saturday morning to decorate the sanctuary. Unlike Loudon Cumberland Presbyterian, Saturday was a newer tradition for the Lenoir City church.

Shelly Brewster, coordinator for the church’s Decking the Halls, said the Refuge tradition has been in place four years. When the church was Pleasant Hill Baptist, decorating as a group had been going on at least 20 years.

“We don’t make a service out of this or nothing,” Brewster said. “We just do this to decorate the church, to make this — it’s the beginning of celebrating Christmas here at the church.”

About 15 trees were located on the sanctuary stage, garland was hung from the balcony and other odds and ends were placed throughout. In the fellowship hall, a tree will hopefully garner youth involvement, Brewster said.

“We let the kids decorate the tree with their own handmade ornaments,” she said. “They may do something on a Wednesday night to help decorate. That way it’s more personal to them, like families would do.”

The family aspect is what Brewster believes is a big push for the church.

“As a church we serve together, we decorate together, we minister together,” she said. “I mean this is like what a family does; you do things together. That’s who we are. ... It’s just like being a family. It’s just like a bunch of sisters coming together and having fun and decorating the church and putting up trees and hanging lights, you know, what women like to do.”