By DAVE McMILLION
5:55 PM EST, December 30, 2012
From the oldest Lutheran church in Washington County to a church tucked among storefronts that likes to think of itself more in terms about the work it does in the community than how it might look were among the places of worship opened for tours Sunday in Smithsburg.
The Smithsburg Area Christmas Tour of Churches used to be a regular event, but before its return Sunday, it had not been held in about eight to 10 years, said Virgil Cain, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church on North Main Street.
Cain said the tour stopped when interest in it declined.
Cain said he was happy with the number of people touring the 11 churches Sunday afternoon. Among the changes in the tour Sunday was that tour times for participating churches were staggered, which makes it easier for participating churches, Cain said.
Tom McCleaf, president of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church (Beard’s), welcomed visitors into the church on Old Forge Road for the start of a 2 p.m. tour.
McCleaf said the church is the oldest Lutheran church in the county, with its history dating to 1743. The first church sat along Antietam Creek before it was established on its current site in 1787, McCleaf said.
A wood stove used to sit in the center of the current church, and parishioners at one time relied on oil lamps for light, McCleaf said.
“We still have three of the oil lamps,” said McCleaf, who added that the church has been rebuilt twice.
The Beard name was added to the church after the Beard family donated land for the church provided that their family name be added to church’s name, McCleaf said.
The Vine Church at the intersection of Main and Water streets in Smithsburg was established in 2006, Pastor Mark Sewell said.
The church is in a line of storefronts downtown, and it includes a seating area just inside the front door, a nursery, a Sunday school area and an office, “sort of,” Sewell said.
The church might not look like a traditional place of worship, and Sewell said an important part of the church’s mission goes on outside its doors, where church members do what they can to help mankind.
“We’re a church of people that wants to help people,” Sewell said.
At Trinity Lutheran Church at 16 N. Main St., visitors could get a glimpse of beauty, including bells chiming from a zimbelstern. The bells are meant to symbolize the sounds of angels, Cain said.
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