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First Baptist decks their halls in 'Hanging of the Greens' service

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Dec. 4, 2011 at 6:04 a.m.

Donna and David Maxey bring poinsettias before the congregation during the "Hanging of the Greens" service on Sunday at First Baptist Church. The service gave church members an opportunity to come and worship while decorations were brought out to celebrate the holiday season.

Members of First Baptist Church decked their halls Sunday during the annual "Hanging of the Greens" Christmas celebration.

The sanctuary, darkened and barren at the start of the service, was set aglow with white Christmas lights, candles, evergreens and poinsettias, as the congregation filled the auditorium with decorations.

"I like to think of the transformation (of the sanctuary) as similar to before I knew Christ. I was empty, void, in need of a savior. And then I was transformed. And I have a purpose and a life forever in heaven," said Dennis Turpin, First Baptist music minister and organizer of the event.

Turpin introduced the church to the decorating concept when he accepted his ministry post three years ago. It was a seasonal opportunity to celebrate and kick off the Christmas season, he said.

"It's about Christ Jesus and about his birth. This allows us to come together and celebrate his birth and decorate the auditorium using all these symbols" of the season, Turpin said, referencing the decorations. "It's all about the people, and the connection with people. It's really fun and very exciting."

The sanctuary is decorated on the first Sunday in December, around the start of Advent, and includes congregational Christmas caroling, selected readings, and performances by the adult, children's and day care choirs.

"It's an active and busy service," Turpin's wife, Rhonda, said. "After tonight, all the Christmas decorations will be in place."

Following the service, the congregation of about 250 gathers in the gym for "Taste of First Baptist." Seventeen individually decorated tables are set up with seasonal foods served in small, plastic cups for individual food samplings.

"They just come and sit and enjoy the food," said Dottie Legg, "Taste of First Baptist" coordinator. "There are a good variety of things, and I think we're the only ones in town that do this."

Some of the foods offered were turkey, summer sausage, soups, cheese balls, white chili and a buffet of pint-sized desserts.

"It's such a wonderful night, and it puts everyone in that Christmas mind frame," Rhonda Turpin said.

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