Crossroads United Methodist Church of Bollinger County
Each year, the local Christmas church tours continue to grow in size and popularity.
First up for 2017 is the Southern Country Church Tour of Cape Girardeau County featuring 5 churches open during these hours:
Saturday, Dec. 9: 4-8 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 10: 1-4 p.m.
The following week brings the big Christmas Country Church Tour covering portions of Perry, Bollinger, and Cape Girardeau counties, with a grand total of 32 locations open during these hours:
Thursday, Dec. 14: 2-9 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 15: 2-9 p.m.
I've prepared an interactive map to help plan your route. The green markers show the "Southern" circuit and the red markers show the original circuit.
It's fun to see the Christmas decorations, munch on snacks, and get in the holiday spirit. Beyond that, though, the church tours offer the opportunity to enjoy some history and architecture geekery. Keep your eyes peeled for these features while visiting the churches and historic sites:
Many of the participating church congregations were organized by German settlers during the 1800s, and this influence can be clearly seen. Several churches feature markers above the front entrances with German labels. Grace Lutheran Church at Uniontown, for example, is labeled "Ev. Luth. Kirche 1875". Kirche is the German word for church.
At Zion United Methodist Church west of Gordonville, the entrance stone announces that the building is a German (Deutsche) Methodist Church built in 1876.
The cemetery adjacent to St. James United Church of Christ at Tilsit includes a number of headstones inscribed in German.
Many of the church sanctuaries still feature decorative tin ceilings, such as Immanuel Lutheran Church at Altenburg.
Brazeau Presbyterian Church goes one better with the decorative work extending down the walls.
You don't have to look very hard to find stained glass windows. First Baptist Church at Oak Ridge features a line of windows that face west toward the sunset.
Trinity Lutheran Church at Altenburg includes a panel that pays homage to the historic log cabin college.
A sign in front of Apple Creek Presbyterian Church proclaims that it was established in 1821 as the "Third Oldest Presbyterian Church West of the Mississippi." The actual church building isn't quite that old, but stepping inside does feel like a journey back in time. The church has never had electricity, so a visit after dark involves lots of candles and lanterns. Be sure to check out the vintage heating system featuring "Wilson's Improved Heater" made by a St. Louis company.
Peace Lutheran Church at Friedenberg near Perryville is another early church. It dates back to the arrival of Bavarian immigrants in 1838 who arrived prior to the more well-known Saxon migration in the Altenburg area. Although the congregation disbanded decades ago, the 1885 church building is maintained as a historic site. It typically features an old-school live Christmas tree decked with tinsel, large light bulbs, and vintage ornaments.
Brazeau Presbyterian Church, built in 1852, is one of the older buildings on the tour. Its age is given away by the criss-crossing network of tension rods and turnbuckles that help stabilize the brick walls.
The stone walls and crenellated steeple give Friedheim's Trinity Lutheran Church a castle-like appearance. Perhaps this is a reference to the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) of Wittenberg, Germany, where Martin Luther made quite a ruckus 500 years ago.
St. Joseph Catholic Church at Apple Creek is popular for its "Schnurbusch Karst Window", but the church building itself features some interesting architectural details, including crosses inset in the brickwork.
At Immanuel Lutheran Church in Altenburg, one of the more photogenic scenes can be found by standing next to the highway and capturing the church behind the ornate iron gates.