My husband grew up Catholic. However since things were often too busy on the farm to run the kids into Sunday school my husband and his siblings grew up attending Sunday school at the Moravian church just down the road from them. This church is just a few short miles down the road from the farm my husband grew up on and was close enough that the kids could load themselves into a tractor and drive down the road to attend Sunday school. Many of the neighborhood kids attended Sunday school there, regardless of what religion they laid claim too.
Mamre Moravian Church is 153 years old this year. It’s the quintessential country church. Bursting at the seams on Christmas eve with 104 people packing the pews and still no indoor plumbing. Mamre’s regular congregation is small and aging. On any given Sunday you would be hard pressed to find a member whose hands had never milked a cow or who can’t remember when the empty farms along our road were owned by the families who’s name are etched on the stones just to the South of the church. They currently share a pastor with another Moravian church and only hold service every other Sunday and they have a brand new outhouse.
Despite the small church and smaller congregation, like clock work, on Christmas Eve at 7:30pm this little country church has cars lined up and down the road and pews packed with neighbors who for one night become part of the Mamre congregation. Because my husband attended Sunday school at Mamre he has been a part of the Christmas pageant since he can remember. Shepard, Wise man, Joseph, Gabriel… he has pretty much played every part except for Mary. For my husband Christmas would not be Christmas without the pageant at Mamre. Now one might wonder if the church’s congregation is so small and the members aren’t of the age to be producing more pageant actors how it is that a Christmas pageant can still go on. Simple, the neighborhood kids that have always been in the pageant are still in the pageant. The very first Christmas pageant I nearly died laughing watching my husband (then boyfriend) walk down the aisle of the church with a crown 3 sizes to small and a robe that went just past his waist, playing the part of wise man along with his father and another neighbor.
That year Joseph was played by a high school Junior and Mary was home from college. In the years since my first pageant experience the “kids” have started to have kids of their own and now the pageant is mostly performed by kids who haven’t gone on their first date or taken out a mortgage. Even though Christmas Eve at Mamre Church started out as my husband’s tradition, I can’t imagine what Christmas would be without that tiny country church, the people it holds and the reminder of the real reason for the season. Here are some photos from this slice of heaven in a little country church on Christmas eve.
At the end of the service we all sing Morning Star and Silent Night by candle. One of the most beautiful and moving times I have spent in any church or community.[/caption]