Celebrate the Christmas season with the Harrodsburg United Methodist Church. The church is hosting the 50th Anniversary “Hanging of the Green” on Sunday, Dec. 3, at 6 p.m.
“Our church has a rich history,” said Michael Barnard, music director at the church. “One thing that has remained is the Hanging of the Green.”
In celebration of the 50th anniversary, members of the Chancel Choir past and present have commissioned an original piece, “The Light is Born,” by composer Teresa Tedder, the conductor of Mid-Kentucky Chorus and artistic director of Mid-Kentucky Arts. “The Light Is Born” includes a string quartet and hand bells, a piano and full choir.
“We commissioned Teresa back in June to start working on this piece,” Barnard explained. “She finished the work on Oct. 1. We are now in rehearsal on this piece and several others.”
“Hanging of the Greens” refers to the practice of adding evergreen plants—either live or artificial—to the worship space through Advent and the 13 days of Christmas—from sundown Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, through sundown Jan. 6, the Epiphany. According to umc.org, the practice began in Europe.
“During the congregational hymns, you will see the actual hanging of the green on each window as well as the lighting of the Christ candles,” Barnard said.
At the Harrodsburg United Methodist Church, men bring in wreaths while women bring in the candles.
“The children play an important role,” Barnard said. In addition to bringing in pieces of the manger scene, one child will serve as the messenger who brings the light of the world into the church, passing the light to the pastor who lights the Christ candle.
The music for the ceremony includes the chancel choir, hand bells, solos and ensembles, Barnard said.
“We’re closing this year with the commissioned anthem by Teresa Tedder,” he said.
There have been Methodists in Harrodsburg since pioneer days. Between 1802 and 1827, they worshiped in a log house located on the south-east corner of North College Street and Broadway, which belonged to Rebecca Hart. In 1827, Rev. William Holman was appointed to lead the Methodists of Harrodsburg and Danville. In the spring of 1828, the Methodist Society of Harrodsburg was formed with seven members. Their first meetings were held in the courthouse. In 1840, the congregation purchased a lot at the present location on the corner of Poplar and Chiles. Under the direction of Rev. Richard Deering, a new brick church and parsonage were built. The parsonage is the oldest continuously used Methodist parsonage west of the Allegheny Mountains and has housed over 60 ministers and their families. On the same site, in 1889, a new church was built that utilized materials from the previous structure. In 1916, a Sunday School Annex was added and a pipe organ installed.
The Hanging of the Greens came to Harrodsburg via Rev. Theodore Nichols, known as “Brother Ted.”
“He also did the Easter drama in 1974,” recalled Wanda Gabehart, “when the tornadoes went through.”
Gabehart has served as church secretary since 2015. She grew up in the church, her family joining when she was five years old. Gabehart was baptized by Brother Ted. She and her family were there for the first hanging of the green in 1973.
“I was in sixth grade,” Gabehart recalled. “Brother Ted said he had seen this in another church.”
As a child, Gabehart remembered performing in Christmas plays down in the church basement, “but nothing as big as this was.”
She recalled the first Hanging of the Greens.
“We had all fresh greenery, no artificial grenery at all,” Gabehart said. “It was like the old English style.”
Back in 1973, the men wore red vests, white shirts and black pants and shoes. The women all wore long dresses or long skirts with white blouses. The ceremony was similar to what will happen on Dec. 3, with children carrying in the garlands, the youth carrying in the wreathes and the ladies carrying in the candles.
“It was basically like what we have now,” said Gabehart, who remembered Ted Dean serving as the first messenger, which she said was called the “sprite.”
“Each group was singing,” Gabehart recalled. “You’d go up front and sing a song.”
Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Hanging of the Greens with the Harrodsburg United Methodist Church (128 South Chiles Street) on Sunday, Dec. 3, at 6 p.m. For more information, call 859-734-3704 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit their Facebook page or their website at harrodsburgumc.org.