The Community Congregational United Church of Christ in Amherst may look a little different to passersby as 183 twinkling solar lights dot the church lawn.

Displayed Nov. 5 by volunteers at the church, located at 379 S. Main St., and its pastor Brian Russell, the lights recall the church’s history.

A Nov. 6 worship service at the Community Congregational United Church of Christ included the singing of “This Little Light of Mine” led by Pastor Brian Russell. (Lauren Hoffman – The Morning Paper)

“It’s a way of honoring 183 years of service at Amherst Church as well as 150 years at Lorain Church, which we merged with a few years ago to become Community Congregational,” says Russell.

people like candles outside
A candlelit evening service was held Nov. 6 at the Community Congregational United Church of Christ to honor those who have died over the past year. (Lauren Hoffman – The Morning Paper)

While the lights may have disappeared at the start of the holiday season, Russell reminds everyone that they are not Christmas lights, but rather have a much deeper meaning.

“These lights each show the history of our church, the faces and memories of each throughout these 183 years as well as the future,” Russell said.

Previously, the pastor had served in his native North Carolina in a church connected to a cemetery.

“We would turn off the lights and have a candlelight service for everyone who passed by to honor All Saints Sunday,” he said. “While the holiday is primarily observed in the Catholic faith, many Protestant leaders such as Martin Luther still saw the holiday as something that needed to be celebrated.”

Amherst resident and daughter of First Superintendent Fred Powers, Mary Miller, 96, joined the Nov. 6 celebrations, having been a longtime resident of the church.  (Lauren Hoffman - The Morning Paper)
Amherst resident and daughter of the first Superintendent of Amherst Schools, Fred Powers, Mary Miller, 96, joined the Nov. 6 service at the Community Congregational Church. She is a long-time member of the church community. (Lauren Hoffman – The Morning Paper)

Since moving to Amherst, Russell has been determined to keep the tradition alive, bringing it to the congregational community for congregants and the town to enjoy.

“I think these lights serve a purpose and powerfully represent what an experience of being a person of faith is like,” he said. “All day, like us, they spend time soaking up the light so that when darkness comes they can shine, leading the way.”

After worship and dedication on the evening of Nov. 6, those present were greeted by twinkling lights under the setting sun.

The service ended with a singing of “This Little Light of Mine” and candles as well as the recitation of the names of those who have died over the past year.

“It’s our turn to carry that light and pass it on to the people who will come after us,” Russell said. “We hope that when people drive by they will see the light and realize that we honor and care for all the Saints before us and are grateful to them and the 183 years of service.”

The lights will remain off until the first Sunday of the new year and will come back on each year, adding a new light for each year of church service.

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