Christmas traditions at church

The Dunwoody Methodist Church Chapel was completed in 1941. This image taken in 1950 of the congregation gathered in front of the chapel shows how it looked before a steeple was added. The photograph is part of the collection of the Donaldson family.

In the 1930s and 1940s, many community activities happened at church and that was certainly true during the Christmas season. Thanks to some people who grew up in Dunwoody and have shared their memories, we know about the traditions of Christmas at Dunwoody Baptist Church and Dunwoody Methodist Church.

The first Dunwoody Baptist Church, a wood frame building, and the second sanctuary were both located on Chamblee Dunwoody Road where Chase Bank is today.

Siblings Carolyn Anderson Parker, Jane Anderson Autry and Ken Anderson attended Dunwoody Baptist Church with their family. They remember that Steve Kirby gave out small stockings filled with candy for the children. There was always a bushel basket of apples and one of oranges for everyone. This was a special treat, especially during the Great Depression.   

The nativity play was rehearsed at the home of Sue Kirby Jameson, church pianist and sister of Steve Kirby. In the last column, I shared some of Sue Kirby Jameson’s memories of the Cheek-Spruill House. She also wrote of attending Dunwoody Baptist Church and the Christmas traditions of the church.  

In the winter, Dunwoody Baptist Church was warmed by a large coal-burning heater. Each year, a live tree was cut and brought into the church. The church members decorated the tree, and small presents were tied to the branches for each child. 

The festivities also included a talent program, consisting of poems, recitations and songs performed by the children.   

Carlton Renfroe remembers Christmas Eve at Dunwoody Methodist Church. The Methodist church started out on the south side of Mount Vernon Road, until the chapel was completed across the road in 1941. Many in the community came to the church for the Christmas pageant. A large cedar tree was cut from the nearby forest and brought by wagon to the church. The congregation of Dunwoody Methodist Church also decorated the tree and hung toys, dolls and other gifts for the children.

In the oral history of Ethel Spruill, held in the archives of Dunwoody Preservation Trust, she recalls Christmas at Dunwoody Methodist Church. She remembers how Calvin Eidson would find and cut a cedar tree and take it to the church. Each child would go forward as Santa called their name to receive a gift. When she first came to Dunwoody, Spruill did not expect to receive any gifts at Christmas. However, many people in the community had small gifts for her making her feel welcome.

The Anderson siblings also remember that there were years when the Baptist and Methodist churches had their own celebrations and other years the churches celebrated together, bringing the whole community together.

You can email Valerie at pasttensega@gmail.com or visit her website at pasttensega.com.

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