Midtown: Community

‘Messy’ Christmas Eve service changes lives

Churches across the Triangle will be filled on Christmas Eve with the glow of candles and the sounds of familiar Christmas carols. But worshippers at All Saints United Methodist Church’s three services will sit on bales of hay in a local barn instead of sanctuary pews. Pastor Greg Moore will be standing in a feeding trough instead of behind a pulpit. And a dozen cows will be eating hay and mooing behind him.

“This service helps us remember that God snuck into the world and met us in a barn,” Moore said. “Jesus wasn’t born in a pristine sanctuary, but in a barn, and he would do anything to be with us.”

Throughout the year, Moore hears stories of how people’s lives were changed when they joined his congregation in the barnyard Christmas Eve service. Many of the people who gather in the barn are not members of All Saints UMC and do not regularly attend church. Before last year’s service, an elderly man approached Moore and told him that he visited Raleigh every Christmas and had attended the service the previous year.

“He told me that over the years had forgotten who he was and what his faith meant to him. The service in the barn was a catalyst for him to change his life, and he had found his way back into his local church,” Moore said.

The church, which usually meets at Brier Creek Elementary, began its unique tradition five years ago, when members were trying to figure out where to hold its first Christmas Eve service. One suggested finding a barn. The first year, about 50 people gathered at the home of a member who owned donkeys and sang carols outside, next to the donkey shed.

The next year, Danny Page donated the use of his barn for the service. The church began meeting each year in the barn his father hand built from pine trees grown on the farm. Last year, more than 700 people gathered for two services, and Moore is expecting more than 1,000 this year.

“I invite everyone to come and experience this Christmas Eve like the first Christmas,” Moore said. “Our God is not the kind of God who demands perfection but meets us in the messy parts of life, like a barn, and converts the mess of life into something beautiful.”

The Christmas Eve services will be held at 3:30, 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. at Page Farms, 6100 Mt. Herman Road, Raleigh. For more information, call 919-321-2648 or visit www.allsaintsumc.org.

Christmas Eve services

Raleigh Moravian Church: 2:30 p.m., children’s Lovefeast featuring the morning Stars children’s choir and hymns and carols geared toward children. 5:30 p.m. and 7:30, traditional Lovefeast services. A simple meal of a slightly sweetened bun and coffee will be served during the Lovefeast, and each worshipper will receive a handmade beeswax candle. All services will be held at the church, at 1816 Ridge Road, Raleigh. For more information, call 919-787-4034 or visit www.raleighmoravian.org.

St. Giles Presbyterian: 4 p.m., family service with the nativity re-enacted by the children and youth with refreshments following. 8 p.m., Refreshments and wassail served in the Fellowship Hall. 9 p.m., service of candlelight and communion. All services will be held at the church, 5101 Oak Park Road, Raleigh. For more information, call 919-787-4790 or visit www.saintgiles.org.

Hayes Barton Baptist Church: 4 p.m., family service at the church, 800 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh. For more information, call 919-833-4617 or visit www.hbbc.net.

Soapstone United Methodist: 4:30 p.m., family service and Spontaneous Christmas Pageant. 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., Christmas Eve worship and communion. All services at the church, 12837 Norwood Road, Raleigh. For more information, call 919- 846-2212 or visit www.soapstoneumc.org.

Grace Lutheran Church: 5 p.m., family service with a re-enactment of the Christmas story, communion, lighting of candles/glow sticks and singing of Christmas carols. 7 p.m., service in German including the reading of the Christmas lessons, singing of Christmas carols, lighting of candles and communion. 11 p.m., candlelight communion service with special music from the choir and musicians, communion and singing of Christmas carols by candlelight. All services will be held at the church, 5010 Six Forks Road, Raleigh. For more information, call 919-787-1815 or visit www.gracelutheranraleigh.org.

Longview Baptist Church: 5 p.m., service at 2308 New Hope Road, Raleigh. For more information, call 919-231-3747 or visit www.longviewbaptist.org.

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church: 5:30 p.m., family service with communion. 9:30 p.m., Christmas music. 10 p.m., Festive Service of Christmas with communion. 10:30 a.m., Tuesday Dec. 25, Christmas Day service with communion. All services will be held at the church, 1725 N. New Hope Road, Raleigh. For more information, call 919-231-6767 or visit www.stmarks-ral.org.

Falls Baptist Church: 5:30 p.m., candlelight service at the church, 9700 Fonville Road, Wake Forest. No services will be held Wednesday, Dec. 26. For more information, call 919-847-0870 or visit www.fallsbaptist.com.

Pleasant Union United Methodist Church: 4 p.m., children’s Christmas pageant. 7 p.m., candlelight communion service. All services are held at the church, 4415 Pleasant Grove Church Road, Raleigh and child care is provided. For more information, call 919-787-7763 or visit www.pgumc.org.

Covenant Church International: 6 p.m., candlelight service, at 12621 Strickland Road, Raleigh. A reception will follow the service. For more information, call 919-846-8742.

Westminster Presbyterian Church: 7 p.m., candlelight service featuring music, spiritual readings and candle lighting, at 301 E.Whitaker Mill Road, Raleigh. For more information, call 919-828-0507.

Hayes Barton Baptist Living Nativity

The Living Nativity, sponsored by a committee formed of Hayes Barton church members, will be presented from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22, Sunday, Dec. 23, and Monday, Dec. 24, at Hayes Barton Baptist Church, 1800 Glenwood Ave. Raleigh. The Christmas story will be read and the nativity will consist of children, adults and live animals. Hot chocolate will be served. For more information, call 919-833-4617 or visit www.hbbc.net.

Pleasant Union UMC concert

Joe Lupton will present his annual Christmas Piano by Candlelight concert at 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 23, at Pleasant Grove United Methodist church, 4415 Pleasant Grove Church Road, Raleigh. Child care is provided. For more information, call 919-787-7763.

Believers Community holiday events

Believers Community, a nondenominational Christian group, will be assisting the Helping Hands Mission with love baskets and toys from 2 to 6 p.m., Monday, Dec. 24, at 623 Rock Quarry Road, Raleigh. Dress warmly and bring extra boxes and packing tape. Afterward, the group will meet from 7 to 9 p.m. for food and conversation at the Carolina Ale House in Wake Forest, 11685 Northpark Drive, Wake Forest. A Christmas dinner will be held from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the NUR Grocery & Deli at Mission Valley Shopping Center at 2233 Avent Ferry Road, #108, Raleigh. A 3.2-mile Christmas Day hike around Lake Johnson will be held at 2:30 p.m. Meet in the back of the parking lot at the Athens Drive library, 1420 Athens Drive, Raleigh. Dogs are welcome. Singles, couples and children are welcome at the holiday gatherings. For more information on all events, email nightonthetown2002@yahoo.com.

Do you have some faith news to share? Send it to correspondent Jennifer Gregory at nrnews@newsobserver.com.