First Lutheran Church celebrates Epiphany

Photo by Jeffrey Saulton Epiphany was celebrated at First Lutheran Church on Saturday with the traditional burning of the greens at the church’s community garden lot adjacent to the church on 19th Street in Parkersburg. The greens burned were used to decorate the church during the Christmas season, along with trees contributed by church members and neighbors.

PARKERSBURG — Christmas came to a close at First Lutheran Church on Saturday with the tradition of burning the greens after the church’s Epiphany service.

According to tradition Epiphany is the traditional service of celebration conducted the 13th day after the birth of Christ, the day the wise men, the first foreigners to recognize Christ as their King and Messiah, arrived in Bethlehem to worship the new born child.

At First Lutheran the service used was written by the Lutheran Church in Tanzania for the annual Epiphany celebration.

The Rev. Ian B. Reid, senior pastor of First Lutheran, said burning the greens is a tradition from Spain and Africa.

“They celebrate Epiphany by having big bonfires using all the greenery the church uses,” he said. “Our church uses mostly artificial greenery now, so we collected some and others dropped off their trees here for the service.”

Reid said they had 13 trees and several feet of greenery donated for the Saturday’s service in the community garden adjacent to the church on 19th Street.

Reid added there is a spiritual tie to the tradition.

“We do it because Epiphany is all about light and life,” he said. “It is a good way to do light in the darkness.”

Reid said he first encountered the custom in Illinois. He said the biggest difference was the church there was in a rural area, not in a city like First Lutheran where outdoor burning could get out of hand easier.

“It’s a little different when you have to do it in the city,” he said. “We were lucky this year with the snow on the ground. The fire department gets a little nervous when it’s dry.”

Reid’s wife, Becca, said the burning is not necessarily from any one denomination.

“It’s not necessarily Lutheran, but more of a Christian in general to do at the end to take the light of Christ into the world,” she said. “Some people say the used trees should be used as a bird habitat or put them in a lake. You could, those are all good things to do, but this returns the tree to the ground.”