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Colton church celebrates Christmas with 100-year-old service

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COLTON - Christmas has passed, but the spirit of Christmas hasn’t left the walls of Zion Episcopal Church, 9 Main St.

Prayers, readings and the lighting of candles opened the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols service at the church Sunday afternoon.

“Dear people of God,” the Rev. Patricia I. Lavine, deacon vicar at the church, said while opening the service. “In this Christmas season, let it be our duty and delight to hear once more the message of the angels, to go to Bethlehem and see the Son of God lying in a manger.”

Joseph M. Liotta, the keyboardist, said the traditional festival originated at King’s College, Cambridge, England, in the early 1900s, and now, there are several different versions of it.

“The bishop had started the service because he wanted it to be a sobering time for the people,” Mr. Liotta said.

Although most of the readings are a set part of the festival’s program, Mr. Liotta organized which carols to sing, mixing in nontraditional ones as well.

“I chose the hymns to match the readings as best I could,” he said.

Ellen G. Galo, a member of the church choir, said this particular service isn’t just about Christmas, but about everything leading up to it.

“It takes us back to Genesis, the very beginning,” the Rev. Ms. Lavine said. “God created light and we just follow that light through all the readings from the beginning to the birth of Christ.”

The service, which took 16 people in the congregation through nine spiritual readings with a congregational carol following each one, is becoming a Christmastime tradition at the church, as it has held it for the past few years.

“It’s not usually a large group,” said Ms. Galo, Potsdam. “But the music is great.”

This year, they decided to have the service after the holiday because of all the events that usually take place in the few weeks before Christmas.

Mr. Liotta said much larger churches and organizations around the world bring in professional musicians and readers for the service.

“Here we don’t dress it up at all,” he said. “That’s that beauty of the service — it can be done at any level.”

Christmas decorations and poinsettias added to the seasonal atmosphere of the service, which was followed by a pot luck dinner in the cafeteria.

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