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First Baptist taking its Christmas music service outside

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The Living Christmas Tree has been a holiday staple for First Baptist for the past 28 years, but things will look a bit different this year.

The music service series would normally happen in the downtown Salisbury church, with a 90-person chorus and an orchestra. The chorus dominates a “living” Christmas tree in the sanctuary, a towering structure nine-layers deep with singers.

Pastor of Worship and Music Russ Robbins said the church realized in July the COVID-19 pandemic was not easing up and the church would probably not be able to host the signature event, so staff got creative.

The music services will be condensed from seven to two, moved outside and renamed “The Sounds of Christmas.” The services will take over the parking lot at West End Plaza, and is free for anyone to attend.

“We’re getting to do something completely different,” Robbins said.

There will be no orchestra or full choir because rehearsal and the performances themselves are impossible while following guidelines.

Robbins said instead there will be a mix of solos, duets and small ensembles, along with narration and a live nativity scene.

Sound will be sent out through an F.M. transmitter that people will be able to tune in via their car radios so they can hear no matter where they are in the parking lot.

“We are actually very excited about doing it this way,” Robbins said. “We want the community to know we care. We are going out into the community instead of having the community come to us.”

Robbins said when Dec. 12 and 13 come around, people will be looking for something special to do for the holidays.

The selection will be a bit different this time around. Robbins said there will be a mix of familiar Christmas tunes in new arrangements and a variety of styles including contemporary songs, traditional carols like “Silent Night” and classics like “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

“This way it doesn’t matter what the COVID restrictions are,” Robbins said. “They’ll be able to come, stay in their car, they’ll stay socially distanced.”

Pastor Darren Lambert started at the church recently and said organizers knew they could not hold the normal service, but did not want to give up on a signature event.

We’ve got this huge opportunity normally that we have to bless our community,” he said.

Lambert said he felt blessed to come into what was already happening at the church, noting the church follows protocols carefully and has had no COVID-19 outbreaks.

Lambert and Robbins said this is an important outreach for the church and for its celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Music Associate Debbie Teague said it is nice the church will still be able to do something this year because the pandemic has wiped out much of public life. The new venue can accommodate a large number of cars.

Robbins said the church will also be collecting food donations for Rowan Helping Ministries.

“It’s not required, but it’s something we want everybody to know about,” Robbins said.

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