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Shining the Light of Christ
Matthew 5:16

David Stone and Family Light the Deodar Cedar at Blue Ridge Electric Co-op, 
Thirteen-year-old Ansley Burns Sings Christmas Music,
Rev. David Taylor of Grace United Methodist Church Gives Devotion

By Karen Brewer, Publisher


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

C. David Stone, Pickens County's Sheriff for 44 years beginning in 1969, and his daughter Susan and grandchildren Sally and Henry Chapman light the majestic Deodar Cedar tree at Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative in Pickens, to officially bring in the Christmas season. The special tree-lighting ceremony was held the evening of Tuesday, November 26, 2019. Pictured with them is Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative President and CEO Jim Lovinggood. During this year's ceremony, Rev. David Taylor, Pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Pickens, gave the devotion, and 13-year-old Ansley Burns, of Easley, sang Christmas music. Read the article and view more photos below.




Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Ansley Burns, age 13, sings "O Holy Night" and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."



Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Rev. David Taylor, Pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Pickens, gives the devotion for this year's tree-lighting ceremony.



The 2019 Christmas season began the evening of Tuesday, November 26 with the lighting of the majestic Deodar Cedar on the lawn of the Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative offices. Having the honors of lighting the tree this year was David Stone, Pickens County’s Sheriff of 44 years, beginning in 1969, one of his daughters, Susan, and two of his grandchildren, Sally and Henry Chapman. Rev. David Taylor, Pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Pickens, gave the devotion, and 13-year-old Ansley Burns, of Easley, sang a selection of Christmas music. 

Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative President and CEO Jim Lovinggood welcomed everyone to the special event. “We certainly appreciate you being here and being a part of this event again this year,” he told the crowd. “We always look at this as the official kickoff for the holidays, the Christmas season, here at Blue Ridge and, I think, for a lot of people in the Pickens community.”

He then recognized the Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative Board of Directors: Chair Joel Davis from Oconee County, Vice Chair Spencer Dalton from Pickens County (and his wife, Angela), Secretary Len Talley from Oconee County (and his wife, Jackie), Treasurer Frank Looper from Pickens County, Ben Bolt from Anderson County (and his wife, Gloria), Jimmy Lee Dodgens from Pickens County (and his wife, Helen), William Elrod from Pickens County, Kenneth Southerlin from Greenville and Spartanburg Counties, and Mendel Stone from Oconee County.

“We also have quite a few dignitaries here tonight,” said Lovinggood, who introduced Pickens County Clerk of Court Pat Welborn, Pickens Chief of Police Travis Riggs, Pickens City Council member Patti Welborn, former Judge Eddie Welmaker, Pickens Mayor David Owens, Judge Perry Gravely, State Senator Rex Rice, Blue Ridge Electric President and CEO Emeritus Charles Dalton and his wife, Libby, Pickens City Administrator David Poulson, and Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark.

Lovinggood then explained the importance of the Deodar Cedar in front of the Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative office. “This tree is probably 70 plus years old,” he said. “We don’t know exactly. The building was built in the early ‘50’s, and the tree was here prior to the building. Shortly after the building was built, they started lighting the tree, but there was no ceremony to light the tree. That all changed when Charles Dalton became CEO, and he started this ceremony that we continue to do today. We appreciate you being here and helping us light the tree.

“One of the things we always do is have a couple of Christmas songs every year. This year, I am excited to announce that we have Ansley Burns. She’s 13 years old and lives with her family in Easley. They are co-op members. She began singing and performing at local events, churches, and competitions at the age of three. Ansley was recently a contestant on season 14 of America’s Got Talent, and she made it all of the way to the semi-finals. We’re very excited to have Ansley here tonight. She’s going to sing a couple of Christmas songs for us.”

Ansley Burns then sang the traditional “O Holy Night” and a lively “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”

“Wow, thank you,” said Lovinggood. “That was great.

“One of our traditions here at this event is to always have a Christmas meditation,” he said. “Tonight, we’re happy to have Pastor David Taylor with us tonight. He is Pastor of Grace United Methodist Church here in Pickens since July of 2017. He and his wife, Toni, came to Grace from Zion United Methodist Church in Prosperity, South Carolina. He and his wife have five sons and four grandchildren, who all reside in Greenville, South Carolina. It’s my pleasure to ask Rev. Taylor to come forward and share his thoughts at this time.”

Taylor then read a devotion about the future from a prayer book from St. Francis and concluded, “As we begin our holiday journey, with our families, with our friends, with those who are with us and those who are far away, may we also remember to place our hands, our hope, and our future in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” He then prayed, “Father, as we gather around this tree this evening, there are no gifts, there are no presents, but there is you, and, atop this tree, there lies a cross that reminds us of the future, of the hope that lives and breathes in your son, Jesus Christ, who is our past, who is our present, who is our future, and who will always be a light to shine brightly to guide our hearts and to guide our paths wherever we go. Father, may we, on this day, celebrate our future and place our hands in yours. In Christ’s name, Amen.” 

Lovinggood then introduced David Stone, in attendance with his wife, Donna, and one of their daughters, Susan, and two of their grandchildren, Sally and Henry Chapman. “It is my honor to introduce David Stone, who is going to be officially lighting our tree tonight. David began his service in Pickens County as Sheriff in 1969. For the next 44 years, David would lead his agency with honor, integrity, and unmatched professionalism. In 2012, Sheriff Stone retired from his position, making him the longest serving Sheriff in South Carolina history and was inducted into the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Hall of Fame on October 17, 2019. Throughout his 44 years of service, Sheriff Stone received numerous accolades and awards, including Sheriff of the Year from the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association, and the highly prestigious Order of the Palmetto, which is the highest civilian honor in the state. David Stone has served Pickens County with the support of his wife, Donna, his children Lindsey and Susan, and his four grandchildren. David was a Blue Ridge Electric member for many years and supports the mission of Blue Ridge Co-op in the service of Pickens County. Since our tree-lighting ceremony began, David Stone has been at every single one of those. It is certainly an honor for me to ask David along with his daughter, Susan, to come forward and officially light the tree this year.”

Sheriff Stone and his daughter Susan and two of his grandchildren, Sally and Henry Chapman, then lit the tree, covered in multi-colored lights, to the cheers and applause of everyone gathered.

Lovinggood thanked the crowd for coming and invited everyone to enjoy refreshments.

The tree can be viewed throughout the Christmas season at the Pickens headquarters of Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, located at 734 West Main Street.


Below, view photos from the 2019 tree-lighting ceremony at Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative in Pickens.


All Photos by Karen Brewer, Publisher, The Christian View magazine