Bluegrass musicians play the tunes of carols at Christmas at a Lutheran church established by German immigrants? Where and why does this happen, you ask.
|A bluegrass service is held annually on Christmas Eve in Newton, NC.|
The church is located in Newton, NC, a well-established city that received its charter in 1855. Almost a century earlier a group of German immigrants, mostly from Pennsylvania and sharing Lutheran and Reformed (now United Church of Christ) faiths, arrived in what was then the wilderness of North Carolina. About 1759 they organized the first church in the colony west of the Catawba River, and the congregation erected their first church, known as the Dutch Meeting House, after obtaining the deed to the property in 1771.
|The Historic Church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.|
In 1818, a replacement two-story log weather-boarded church was built with a separate, now repurposed, slave gallery. It is still the oldest existing church in North Carolina west of the Catawba River and is now known as the Historic Church of Old St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, whose congregation now regularly meets in a nearby brick building built in 1952.
|The award-winning Sigmon family fills the church with the sweet sounds of strings.|
The initial congregation met without a pastor until 1776, when John Arndt, a veteran circuit rider, traveled from Lutheran settlements near Salisbury. In 1781, he became a full-time missionary to the region west of the Catawba and preached in the German language, the common speech of local families for several generations.
|The language spoken initially at the Historic Church was German.|
Much like the shift from German to English, the music of the service also changed and now includes bluegrass, known for having been born in the Appalachian South with roots in Irish, Scottish, and English music. Several times during the year (May, July, October), the congregation conducts bluegrass worship services at the historic church. On Christmas Eve, it has also conducted a bluegrass worship service since 2011.
|The second level was a slave gallery before the end of the American Civil War.|
The bluegrass services make the Historic Church come alive. The old structure is still as solid as the year when it was constructed. However, now the language spoken inside is English, and the sounds of banjo, fiddle, string bass, guitar, and mandolin accompany the voices of the carolers.
|A bluegrass worship service has been held at the Historic Church since 2011.|