Pastor Forrest Genthner strings Christmas lights at the First Baptist Church of Livermore Falls on Tuesday. Genthner will turn the lights on at the church at 25 Church St. and the parsonage next door at 6 p.m. Saturday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Growing up poor meant there were not many extras for Forrest Genthner’s family.

“I grew up in poverty,” he said. “But, the one thing we could afford was to have a Christmas tree with lights on.”

Around the holidays, Genthner’s family would coordinate trips to coincide with dusk so they could see Christmas light displays on their way to run errands.

“It always brought me a lot of joy to see the lights,” Genthner said.

The pastor of the First Baptist Church of Livermore Falls at 25 Church St. has been busy since early November putting up his light display hoping to return the favor.

Genthner and his wife, Molly, live in the parsonage next to the church. Decorations were limited to their home last Christmas, but that won’t be the case this year.

“From one side of the church property to the other,” Genthner has strung holiday lights, put inflatable snowmen in place and hung wreaths while making sure that a manger with angels will be the focus of his Christmas light show.

“I’m hoping it will bring the community joy during this difficult time,” he said.

The idea to go big came to him election night.

“The outcome of the election was not going to change whether I was sitting in front of my TV or not,” the “political junkie” said. “I needed a break.”

The following morning, Genthner turned off the television and pulled out the ladder.

“I’m going to go over the top to bring some joy,” he said of his thought.

Pastor Forrest Genthner pulls the ladder out while hanging Christmas decorations on the parsonage next to the First Baptist Church of Livermore Falls at 25 Church St. on Tuesday. Genthner will turn the lights on at the church and parsonage at 6 p.m. Saturday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

One week later, on Veterans Day, Genthner was still at it. Temperatures outside pushed 70 degrees while the pastor propped up an inflatable Santa and placed two artificial Christmas trees on his front porch — one for each year that he and Molly have been married. A third tree (a live one) is inside “because we are working on our third year.”

“I was setting up Christmas lights on Veterans Day while my wife was gardening. Those are two things that don’t usually happen together here in Maine,” Genthner said.

Christmas is a busy time for the church, he said. Last, year, 110 people came to the Christmas Eve service. The church will have two services Dec. 24 to keep within COVID-19 mandates of 50 people or less. “We will deep clean in between services,” he said.

Prior to June 1, when services were held outside, Genthner preached from the fire escape as parishioners stayed in their cars.

“They don’t teach you about pandemics in seminary,” he said.

Genthner and his wife will flip the switch to the church light show at 6 p.m. Saturday. The Maine Paper and Heritage Museum across from the church will allow parking and people can stand along the sidewalk as long as they social distance and wear a mask, Genthner said. “I think Santa may even be there.”

“This community has been hit hard between COVID and the mill explosion,” he said. “My wife and I have been very fortunate compared to many. This is a little extra that we can do to bring joy.”

“I think this year will be one of the most spectacular Christmases in a while. There won’t be the long lines that come with Black Friday and such,” the pastor said. “The focus will be on what Christmas is really about.”

Pastor Forrest Genthner strings Christmas lights Tuesday at the First Baptist Church of Livermore Falls on Church Streeton. Genthner will turn on the lights at the church and parsonage next door at 6 p.m. Saturday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo


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