Holiday history

Holiday history

Image Credit: Submitted

Main Street Wooster is doing the inaugural Hop-on Hop-off tour of Wooster’s historic downtown churches this holiday season.

On the evening of Dec. 2, you can tour, snack and be entertained while enjoying the holiday lights. In previous years, the free holiday event has been a walking tour.

“We wanted to add this hop-on hop-off style tour so those who are unable to walk long distances are able to participate in the tour,” said Kerri Manley-Still, project coordinator for Main Street Wooster. Participants are, of course, welcome to walk the tour if they prefer.

For those wanting a ride, the tour bus will begin its route at the main branch of Wayne County Public Library. The bus will run approximately every 15 minutes.

Participating churches are selected by their location in the historic downtown footprint, according to Manley-Still.

“We ask all of the local area churches and whoever responds and is willing to participate will be involved in the event,” she said.

Churches participating this year are St. James Episcopal Church, Wooster United Methodist Church, First Baptist Church, Zion Lutheran Church, Central Christian Church, First Presbyterian Church, St. Mary’s of the Immaculate Conception and Wooster Seventh-day Adventist Church. People to People Ministries is also included in the tour.

“The tour is a great way to learn about the history of our area,” Manley-Still said, adding that even lifelong residents might learn something new.

Each church will offer tours and a glimpse into its history as well as a variety of snacks and entertainment along the way.

Wooster United Methodist Church was built in 1886. In the sanctuary, visitors will see a handcrafted Moravian star that hangs during advent through epiphany. The star is lit on Christmas eve. The church will have live music and cookies for guests to enjoy. The musical schedule includes: 5-5:30, 6-6:30, 7:30-8, Steve Gerber, WUMC Organist; 5:30-6, WUMC Bell Choir; 6:30-7, Aaron Meidel, violinist; 7-7:30, Wesley Howell, guest organist. Literature on the church’s history and architecture will be available.

Zion Lutheran was founded in 1840. Those touring will enjoy music played on a Schantz pipe organ, refreshments and the opportunity to hear a brief history of the church.

“We love welcoming our neighbors and sharing the beauty and peace of Zion’s sanctuary,” pastor Marty Jacobson said.

First Baptist Church was built in 1837.

“First Baptist Church is the oldest church west of Cleveland, and we have the oldest baroque pipe organ in the state,” pastor Larry Groves said.

Guests on the tour will listen to organ music while sipping hot chocolate, snacking on cookies and learning about the history of the building.

Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception will offer a self-guided tour with refreshments. Its faith community began organizing and gathering together for faith and prayer in 1817 — a group comprised primarily of German and Italian descent.

The origins of First Presbyterian Church date back to 1815 when 15 Scottish and Irish settlers gathered in a home on W. Liberty St. to form a Presbyterian congregation. Those on the tour will be treated to organ music and refreshments at the church.

Established in 1835, Central Christian Church will offer live music, refreshments and handouts. Saint James Episcopal Church will have tours of its sanctuary. The present location was built in 1860, and in 1888 Wooster’s first pipe organ was installed, the water-powered Felgermaker organ.

Visitors to the Wooster Seventh-day Adventist Church will enjoy organ music, refreshments and tours of the sanctuary. The church purchased the building, constructed in 1868, in 1962. Its pipe organ, installed in 1922, is the oldest pipe organ in Wayne County that still has the original parts and has not been modernized with electronic components. During the tour, Neil Jackson will provide organ music.

People to Ministry, a nonprofit, was originally on the campus of First Presbyterian Church.

“People to Ministry was started in 1978 by a council of churches and several very caring individuals,” said Joe Szeker, the director of operations.

By participating in the tour, the community has the opportunity to see the nonprofit’s facility firsthand and learn more about the wide variety of services they offer.

“The first time we participated over 200 people came through our doors and 90% had not been here before,” Szeker said.

He explained that their tour often “provides a few ‘aha’ moments” where people realize the wide scope of what People to People does.

To add to the festivities, in addition to the tour of its facility, People to People will have a food truck on hand with sandwiches for purchase.

The 2022 Historic Church Tour is an opportunity for anyone interested to tour through some of Wooster’s most historic church buildings. The hop-on/hop-off style tour will take place on Friday, Dec. 2 from 5-8 p.m. The first bus will take off from the Wayne County Public Library, 220 W. Liberty St., Wooster, at 5 p.m. Guests may park in the library parking lot. No advance sign up or tickets are required.

Information may be found online at

The free tour is open to all, regardless of religious beliefs.

“We are all better together,” Jacobson said. “This event transcends all that can divide our community and bring us peace we all need.”