Luminary is defined by Oxford Dictionary as “a person who inspires or influences others, especially one prominent in a particular sphere; a natural light-giving body, especially the sun or moon. Over time, luminaries have taken on many different forms from the extravagant to the simplest paper bag. Each representing a communication of some type, such as a warning or for celebration. The Damascus Manor United Methodist Church chose to bring the beautiful roadside luminaries back to the Damascus Area for Christmas. The holiday season reminds us to stop and reminisce about the luminaries, past and present, in one's life.

For the Damascus area, the roadside luminaries began when Mary Priebe was working in New York State and traveled the roads where the people would put out luminaries. Mary said “Huh! They would look good in Damascus.” Since our area is a dairy farm community it was deemed appropriate use milk jugs for the luminaries. The original plan was to begin at the Cochecton-Damascus Bridge and end at Ralph Price's house. The luminaries were to be placed on both sides of Route 371 lighting the way to the Damascus Church for the Christmas Eve service. After collecting milk jugs for many years and the project not getting off the ground, Dick Priebe complained to Nolua Dexter about all of the jugs that were being stored in his white building. It wasn't until 1992 when Nolua spoke to Peggy Pearsall about Mary's idea and the project was born! Ray Dexter, Richard Turner, and Richard Priebe would gather in Ray's barn to cut flaps in the jugs, fill the bottom with sand and place a candle in each jug. Around 4 pm. On Christmas Eve, volunteers could be seen placing the milk jug luminaries along Route 371 until they ran out of jugs. For many years, the project grew to cover, both main and back roads in Tyler Hill, Galilee, Conklin Hill, Milanville, and Rileyville.

Over the years, the project faded out. The Priebe's continued to light their own drive every Christmas Eve. Last year a few of the jugs lighted the walk ways and drive way of the church and many commented on how wonderful it was to see the luminaries. Melissa Rutledge, suggested at a church meeting this past spring to bring them back for 2018. The community could support the project by making donations in honor or in memory of loved ones. Jugs would be collected throughout the summer, prepared and placed on 371 near the church on Christmas Eve. It was a yes vote and the project was re-born.

This Christmas Eve, as the faithful come together to celebrate the birth of our Savior, we will look at the luminaries and remember that God sent these special people to us as gifts. They will also remind us that “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world and the world was made through him...” John 1:9-10

The following is a list of those who are being remembered in His honor this Christmas through the Luminary Project. The sponsor's name(s) appears in parenthesis.

IN HONOR OF: Dinorah Rodriguez (Pastor JR and Elsa Rodriguez), Margaret Merritt, Pearle Turner (Jack and Mary Fitzgerald) , Margaret Merritt (Marge Platt), Judy Diehl, Anna Modrovsky, Lois McKaig (Mike and Kim Modrovsky Family), William J. Gager (Bruce and Melissa Rutledge Family), Dexter Family, our children and grandchildren, and Damascus Manor United Methodist Church (Jeff and Linda Dexter).

IN MEMORY OF: Alberto Rodriguez, Ramon Santos, Flor Maria Baez (Pastor JR and Elsa Rodriguez), Helen Bell (Carl Bell), Harold and Helen Vannatta, Shirley Vannatta Hiller, Merlin and Esther Stephens (Richard and Mary Priebe), John and Helen Fitzgerald, John and Marjorie Diehl (Jack and Mary Fitzgerald), John C. Diehl, Ivan and Ruth Swendsen, Hazel Hinaman, John and Marjorie Diehl, Reggie Seipp, Ronald Seipp, Beulah Fortnam, Robert and Marie Diehl (Judy Diehl and Family),

John C. Diehl, Anthony F. Modrovsky Sr., John and Marjorie Diehl, Ivan and Ruth Swendsen, Andrew Modrovsky (Mike and Kim Modrovsky Family), Skip Erhardt, Dave Goodenough (Gary and Ranae Birmingham), Harry Smith, Fred Lewis (Doris Lewis), Jennie Castor, Gladys Smith, Viola Katzmann, Marie Krist ( Ibis Katzmann), J.William and Mavis Gager, Raymond and Shirley Deighton, M. James and Alice Rutledge, Lewis and Clara Meckle (Bruce and Melissa Rutledge Family), Kevin Kerber, Elvan Monington, Elizabeth Monington, Bob Kerber (Shirley and Larry Kerber), Bill and Janice Burden (Jeff and Linda Dexter), Alan McKaig, David Clark, Kathleen Heslin, Larry McKaig, Beulah Fortnam, Florence Price (Lois McKaig), Elizabeth Monington (Pam Gehman), Daniel Lynn (Edna Davis), Levi Houghtaling (Roni Houghtaling), Ivan Houghtaling, Debbie Houghtaling Robbins, Amy Houghtaling Adams, Lorraine Spry, Ray Spry (Eric and Jenette Houghtaling), Jack Kernick, Ethel Kernick, Inez Kernick, Thelma Adams (Rusty Hendershot), James Litzenbauer (Josie Litzenbauer), Ed Harsch, Elvin Swendsen, Ben and Mildred Turner, Walter and Hazel Swendsen (Brad and Diana Swendsen), Edward Harsch, Nelson H. Miller, Mary R. Miller, Elvin Swendsen (Roy and Peggy Swendsen) Edward Harsch (Margaret Harsch), and Margaret Lindley, Thomas Lindley, Jake Hopkins, Gloria Wessman, Leona Buddenhagen (Holly Hopkins).

“The Christmas candles are burning bright, under the beautiful moonlight.

May the Angels pray to the heavens for you , and may all that you wished for, come true.”

All are invited to join us Christmas Eve at 7pm for a performance of the cantata “Christmas is Real” and a candle light service at the Damascus Manor United Methodist Church on Route 371 in Damascus. Additional parking is available at the Damascus School. May the true meaning of the season be forever in your heart.