• 64°

CLAY HILL CHRISTMAS: Historic church carries on tradition despite cold

On a cold and windy January Saturday night, the 2017 Christmas season came to a quiet, peaceful and reverent close at historic Clay Hill Church in rural Pike County.

The unusually cold weather was cause for the Brundidge United Methodist Church to consider canceling the Old Christmas at Clay Hill service that has been an Old Christmas (January 6) tradition for about 20 years.

However, according to the scriptures, Matthew 18:20 tell us that “where two or three gather together in My name, there am I with them.”

So Don Renfroe and Mike Richards stoked the fires so to speak and made sure those who braved an icy, cold January 6 night would be comfortable in the warmth of the one-room century old church.

“We thought it was important to have Old Christmas whether we had two or three or whether we filled the church,” Renfroe said. “We didn’t pack the church but we had a good crowd considering. It was a good service and a good way to close out the Christmas season.”

Old Christmas at Clay Hill is a service of songs and scriptures and the celebration of the Wise Men who came to bring gifts to the Christ Child.

Although most all nativity or manger scenes feature the Wise Men at the stable where the Christ Child was born, the Rev. Ed Shirley, pastor of BUMC, said Jesus was probably about two years old at the time of their arrival.

Ramona Fryer and Jill Jones of Opp attended Old Christmas at Clay Hill for the first time and both were touched by the simplicity and reverence of the service.

“The Old Christmas service reminded me of when I was a little girl and would go to church with my grandparents at Tennille,” Fryer said. “It was a one-room church, much like Clay Hill.

“The church was beautifully but simple decorated with cedar, holly and berries and the candlelight and light from the oil lamps gave the church a wonderful glow.”

Fryer said the reverence of the service was uplifting.

“It was a place of worship and a worshipful service,” she said. “It reminded me of how, years ago, people would gather in one-room churches to worship. Everything back then was simple and people weren’t rushed. They took time to worship. Like the song that was sung said, Jesus is the reason for the season. That’s why we were there – to celebrate our Savior’s birth and the coming of the Wise Men. We need to get back to the real reason for the season.”

The Old Christmas at Clay Hill service is a wonderful and meaningful way to close out the Christmas season each year and begin a New Year, Shirley said.

“Jesus brought a Light of Hope into the world,” he said. “As we leave Clay Hill Church each January 6, we do so with lighted candles so that our lights may shine so that others may see them and glorify our Father which is in heaven.”