NEW ERA, Iowa — Most Americans know at least some of the lyrics of the Christmas classic “Silent Night,” but not everyone knows it was sung to a guitar the first time it was introduced to the public.
That fact and more will be part of a history-themed Christmas service Thursday, Dec. 22, at the Old Stone Church near Wildcat Den State Park.
The event is being coordinated by the Friends of the Old Stone Church, the group whose five-year-old restoration project brought the long-abandoned 144-year-old Pine Mills German Methodist Episcopal Church back to life.
“We look forward to welcoming the public to an interdenominational Christmas-themed service,” said Friends of the Old Stone Church member Ken Hyman, who hopes Thursday’s forecast for 40-degree weather, holds true.
“Everyone is invited and there will be many Christmas carols to sing,” said Hyman.
Hyman and his fellow members researched what a Christmas service was like 100 years ago as well as the history of the German congregation in preparation for the service, part of which will be given in German.
It will be led by the Rev. Jim Turner of Sweetland and Musserville United Methodist Churches, who Hyman said is a bit of a history buff himself.
“Rev. Turner knows quite a bit of history on some of the traditional Christmas carols, like ‘Silent Night,’ and he will talk about those,” said Hyman.
Hyman said the first time “Silent Night” was sang at a midnight mass 193 years ago at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria, it was meant to be accompanied by a church organ. But the organ was out of commission, leaving the guitarist, the Rev. Joseph Mohr, to stand in.
Mohr wrote the lyrics and his friend, Franz Gruber, wrote the music.
On Thursday, Wilton musician Jim Batchelor will play the pipe organ for the Old Stone Church service and Kurt Boche of Muscatine will sing some solos.
Another historical aspect of the service will be the biblical reading of the Christmas story, said Hyman.
Thursday marks the second Christmas-themed service conducted at the restored church.
The first was held on Christmas Eve of 2010, and marked the first time a service had been held at the church in 100 years. It was attended by 125 people, said Hyman.
“We’ve decided we’re gong to do this every year,” said Hyman.