Starr church brings old time Christ­mas into 2016 hol­i­days

Record Observer - - Front Page - By DOUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­

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.

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