Greensburg area church tour will showcase holidays, history

| Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, 8:57 p.m.

The true spirit of Christmas will come alive Dec. 8, when the Greensburg Garden Center hosts its first Holiday Historic Church Tour of Greensburg. This multifaceted tour will take participants inside five of the town's most historic and architecturally interesting churches, each of which will be decorated for the season by one of the area's top floral designers. At each church, the pastor will give a short talk about the building's history and design, followed by a presentation of Christmas music.

The church tour was the brainchild of tour chairman Donna Lee.

“So many people are interested in architecture and history, and we have some beautiful churches in Greensburg,” she says. “This will get people in the mood for Christmas.”

The scheduled tour begins at 12:30 p.m. at the Otterbein United Methodist Church on College Avenue, decorated by Gary Pratt of Le Jardin Florals and Home Accents. Free parking will be available there and at the second church. Tour participants can then walk to the other three. Each program lasts about 45 minutes, with 15 minutes allotted for travel from one church to the next.

At 1:30 p.m., the presentation will begin at the First United Methodist Church on East Second Street, decorated by Patrick and Susann Thomas of Joseph Thomas Flower Shop. Tour participants will have time to visit the church's crèche display.

The tour then moves to the First Reformed United Church of Christ on South Maple Avenue, where Tracy Faulk of In Full Bloom Floral & Gift Shoppe will be the decorator. Next is the First Evangelical Lutheran Church on South Main Street. The church will be decorated by The Curly Willow's Jim Shawl, who also will sing. The final stop on the tour is the First Presbyterian Church on South Main Street. The neo-Gothic stone church was built in 1917. It was designed by Ralph Adams Cram, who also designed the chapels at West Point Military Academy and Princeton University. With its large, arched wooden doors and windows, towers and stone buttresses, the church is reminiscent of a medieval European cathedral. Inside, the soaring arched ceiling lends a feeling of grandeur that will be enhanced by the floral designs of Johnston the Florist's Laura Fedorko.

“I'll be adding to what is already there, which, by itself, is gorgeous,” Fedorko says. She plans to add arrangements of Johnston's home-grown poinsettias in red and white, along with fresh greens and pines.

Pastor Martin Ankrum will speak at 4:30 p.m., followed by a Christmas carol sing-along with music provided by Edgar Highberger, the church's minister of music. Soloists from Seton Hill University also will perform. After the program, refreshments of punch, coffee and holiday cookies will be served. Ankrum is looking forward to the opportunity to participate in the tour.

“We're glad to be in the heart of downtown Greensburg,” he says. “It's a great community to be in.”

Lee expects about 400 people to join the tour, which will help to fund the garden center's horticultural scholarship program. Her hope is that the churches, music and flowers will rekindle the true beauty of the season.

“This gets people back to the real meaning of Christmas,” she says. “It's not all about commercialism. This is the real reason for Christmas.”

Cynthia Bombach Helzel is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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