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Havre de Grace churches open their doors Monday for annual tour

Local churches will open their doors to those who want to take a step back into history for the 13th annual Christmas Open House of 19th and 20th Century Historic Havre de Grace Churches.

The free, self-guided tour will take place 2 to 4 p.m. Monday, Dec. 26, with a Jan. 2 rain date. Visitors should begin at the Havre de Grace Methodist Church, 101 S. Union Ave., to pick up a brochure with the full list of churches and addresses. The Havre de Grace Tourism and Visitors Center also has brochures available.

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Ray Astor, chairman of the tour, has been coordinating the annual visit, which focuses mainly on Havre de Grace's "Church Row," for its entire 13-year history.

The few blocks of Congress Avenue where it also intersects with Union Avenue has a dense concentration of churches. The six stops on the tour, Havre de Grace Methodist Church, St. John's Episcopal Church, St. Patrick Catholic Church, First Baptist Church, Grace Reformed Episcopal Church and St. James AME Church, are all within a couple blocks of each other. Astor represents St. Patrick's in the Susquehanna Ministerium, the sponsor of the tour, as a member of the congregation.

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"I saw a church [tour] out in Frederick and thought, 'Why can't we have it in Havre de Grace?'" Astor said of how the event originated. He brought the idea to the ministerium, which gave him the go-ahead. Astor was put in charge of the event with the assistance of a few local pastors. "I've been doing it ever since."

The tour's goal, Astor explained, is to "hopefully bring people into their churches." He said a lot of first-time visitors return to speak with a pastor and/or join one of the churches on the tour. "It's evangelizing in a nice way."

Getting to see "beautifully decorated churches with many stained-glass windows and beautiful nativity scenes" is also huge draw, Astor said.

St. Patrick's has more than 12 colorful windows, the most of any church on the tour, he added. The church also has a large outdoor, as well as indoor, nativity scene.

St. John's Episcopal Church, built in 1809, is the oldest place of worship on the tour and in the city. Astor commented that the church was completed "just in time to be raided by the British in the War of 1812." While the church was partially destroyed, it ultimately survived.

The city's rich history and gorgeous churches are what draw people back every year for the tour, Astor said.

For more information, contact the Methodist church, 410-939-2464, or the tourism center, 410-939-2100.


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