Churches Spread Christmas Cheer in New and Creative Spaces

By Brett Hetherington*

Throughout the month of December churches across the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church were greeted with opportunities to share the message of Christmas and God’s love with their communities. Some, like Grandview UMC (Canal District), reached beyond the church walls by taking on a never-tried-before venture while others, like Clyde First UMC (Firelands District), renewed a dormant tradition to minister to others this Christmas.

As we begin this new year, let these stories encourage you and your congregation to dream of how your church can reach beyond the walls to minister to and with members of your community.

Christmas Eve in a Machine Shop

(A special contribution from Rev. David Hull-Frye of Grandview UMC)

Church can happen anywhere, even in a 93-year-old machine shop. On Wednesday, December 28 at 5:00 p.m., Grandview United Methodist Church brought the message of Christmas to new people in a new place in downtown Cuyahoga Falls. This service was originally scheduled as a Christmas Eve service at 4:00 p.m. but was moved back four days due to the impact of Winter Storm Elliott. Christmas from the Jenks was held downtown at the Jenks Building, two miles from our 23rd Street Grandview campus and one-half a mile from the Grandview downtown campus.

Twenty-five people from the church and community attended in-person with several more joining online. The original Facebook event for the Christmas Eve date had 70 people from the Cuyahoga Falls community responding “interested” and many of those commenting they will be in attendance and expressed understandable disappointment due to the change. The rescheduled date and time affected the ability of many to attend. Those who were able to participate were glad they could.

The Christmas celebration featured a mini-Christmas concert led by our Grandview UMC music ministry with Shauna Knight on keyboard and Alexa McCleaster on flute. Jim Knight read scripture from Isaiah and the Gospel of Luke. I shared a Christmas message related to the Christmas traditions we lost due to COVID-19 and the hope of new traditions. To close the service, those attending in-person and those online embraced the long-standing tradition of singing “Silent Night” together.

Grandview UMC church member and co-owner with her husband of the Largely Literary Theater Company Sara Showman attended the service in-person. “It was so wonderful that I could truly find the spirit of Christ and Christmas in a refurbished garage in downtown Cuyahoga Falls. And that was because ‘two or more were gathered in His name’ to worship with beautiful music, warm camaraderie and a church community that can be found anywhere as long as Jesus is there, too.”

Grandview UMC member Kathie Crabtree also attended the service and shared her thoughts: “My husband and I attended the service at the Jenks building. The 93-year-old building was a unique setting for a lovely service. The keyboardist and flutist played a series of Christmas carols that was absolutely beautiful. The message, about Christian traditions, was brief and meaningful. The service ended with all of us singing “Silent Night” by candlelight. All in all, it was a really unusual and enjoyable experience.”

The historic Jenks building dates to 1929 and originally functioned as a machine shop. In fact, much of the original machinery is still present. Currently the Jenks is an eclectic, hyper local, example of Urban Recycling at its best. The Jenks sells many items including Pendleton Blankets, Opinel Knives, Stanley Brand products and more. It also is home to Yada Yada Coffee & Falls Outdoor Co., Trust Books, local vendors, and regularly hosts local musicians.

I, and the Grandview UMC congregation thank the Jenks building owners Jodie and Micheal for this opportunity.

View the service, which begins at around the 20-minute mark.

A Christmas Tradition of Hope

(A special contribution from Pastor Amy Ochier of Clyde First UMC and Green Springs UMC)

On Wednesday, December 14 Clyde First UMC hosted students, teachers, and staff from the School of Hope (part of the Sandusky County Board of Developmental Disabilities) for their annual Christmas celebration. This community collaboration for the School of Hope students returned after a two-year hiatus. Prior to that it had been an annual event at Clyde First UMC for over 20 years.

The students were treated to Christmas carols performed by members of Clyde High School’s contemporary a cappella group, Kaleidoscope. A holiday feast prepared by the members of Clyde First UMC, donated by Crown Battery in Fremont and served by volunteer students from Clyde High School, was enjoyed by all in attendance. 

Santa, Mrs. Claus, and one of Santa’s elves arrived to visit the celebration. The Home Depot Distribution Center in Van Buren assisted Santa in making sure each student was given a gift. The looks on the students’ faces were priceless as they posed for pictures and received their gifts. The building was full of joy and laughter as the spirits of all of God’s precious children were brightened!

The Conference Communications team would like to share other stories that highlight ways that each of us is answering the call of Bishop Tracy S. Malone to reach out to our communities in creative ways. Please e-mail your ministry story to EOC Executive Director of Communications Rick Wolcott at wolcott@eocumc.com.

* Brett Hetherington is the Communications specialist for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.