Starr church brings old time Christmas into 2016 holidays
STARR — Members of the community and many former members of Starr Methodist Church gathered Sunday evening, Dec. 4, for a candlelight Christmas Caroling service. The program, under the direction of Nancy Cook of Queenstown, is a tradition of more than 15 years.
Cook, who served as music director at Centreville United Methodist Church for 25 years (retired this past October) and former President of the Kent Island Heritage Society, led the caroling.
It was just another example of Cook’s enthusiasm for living history. The historic church building was constructed in the late 1850s, prior to the Civil War, and was dedicated in November 1860. The architecture of the building, inside and out, is ver y representative of those times. It is a one-room church building, with 10-foot high windows to allow maximum lighting inside during worship services.
Originally, “Sunday worships were held at the Starr church at 2 p.m. in the bright light of the day,” according to former Starr Church member Mary Covington Payne, 87, who now resides in Salisbur y.
Of course, in the mid1800s, electric lights had not yet been invented, and religious services in the non-daylight hours were rare in those days. The church is still equipped with wick oil lanterns on the walls inside the church, which were used for the caroling service Sunday evening. Additional real flame burning candles were stationed in the front of the chapel that evening.
The church building also has a rear loft balcony that is difficult to access with a very steep staircase, not often used.
For the program Sunday evening, the inside of the church was decorated with small, seasonal electric candle window lights, adorned with red ribbons and green garlands.
Cook does not take any credit for hosting the annual event. She said, “This event is done annually by Dolly Covington Taylor, who resides in Starr, and Henry Covington, who both see to maintaining and the care of the building.” Dolly is the proud sister of Mary Payne.
It was obvious, however, Cook was in her element that evening — music and history. Cook retired from teaching public school in 1992 after 32 years of service, most in Queen Anne’s County. Before becoming music director at Centreville UM, she was music director at Kent Island United Methodist Church for 25 years.
It was easy to imagine Christmas caroling, singing of religious Christmas hymns during this time of year, covering the past 156 years of the church’s existence. Regular religious services were held there until the church was closed in 1995. Only twice a year are events held at Starr Church, a “homecoming” of former members each October, and the Christmas service the first Sunday of December.
The caroling included favorites such as: “The First Noel,” “Away in a Manger,” “Joy to the World,” and concluded with “Silent Night.”
Besides the congregational caroling, special singing presentations were made by members of the Taylor family; father Eli Taylor played his acoustic guitar, singing with his children, Eden, 14, James, 12, and Claire, 8. Also several selections of songs were performed by former UMC Pastor Howard Embert, his daughter Jennifer Coleman, and grandson Isaiah Embert, who accompanied them with his soulful piano performance.
Mary Payne recited from memory all the verses of Chapter 2 from both the Book of Luke and then the Book of Matthew from the Bible that describe the birth of Jesus Christ. She followed that with commentary about serving others and giving gifts at Christmas time.
“Christmas is all about giving gifts,” Payne said.. “God gave us his greatest gift, his only son. Providing service as gifts to others, especially those in need, is our way of honoring God, and his son Jesus Christ.”
Following the service, a light meal was held in the church’s “Social Hall,” the former Greenville School House that was purchased and moved just behind the church building in 1927 to be used for social gatherings.
Over the years, Cook has led the singing at events at other local historic churches, including Salem Church, between Centreville and Church Hill, and Dudley’s Chapel in Sudlersville.
Nancy Cook, dressed in seasonal Christmas red, leads the singing of the Christmas carols, Sunday evening, Dec. 4, inside historic Starr Methodist Church. It was the 15th year Cook has led the music for the annual Christmas program. She recently retired as music director at Centreville United Methodist Church.
The Old Starr Methodist Church in Starr, right, with the social hall out back. Sunday evening, Dec. 4, the annual Caroling service was held, bringing not only a seasonal singing event, but a little living history at the church. Located along Route 309, between Centreville and Queen Anne.
Some of more than 45 people in attendance who attended the caroling service Sunday evening, Dec. 4, inside historic Starr Methodist Church. The church building was constructed in the late 1850s. The original lighting was oil wick lamps, which are still in use inside the building.
Eli Taylor plays guitar and his children sing a Christmas ballad. From the left, Claire Taylor, 8, James Taylor, 12, and Eden Taylor, 14.