Local faith groups open their doors for holidays

Local faith groups open  their doors for holidays

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year as the beloved Christmas carol goes, guarantees an over-loaded church calendar with high congregational and public expectations. A season rich with opportunity for faith groups to minister far beyond their membership, most plan months in advance to deliver messages: of faith, salvation, hope, love and peace, inclusiveness, tolerance, charity, mercy and goodwill. Voices and traditions differ; the desire to touch hearts and minds for the good of all remains universal.
With the spiritual message, special music and multiple services to meet diverse ages, interests and needs, comes the challenge of reaching the public. Newsletters, mailings and advertising are complemented by interactive websites and social media, exponentially increasing outreach. Congregations offer free movies, speakers, youth or senior activities with transportation, social or group community service events. Interfaith groups coordinate joint activities to attract believers and the uncommitted, non-denominational or casual visitors, youth, seniors, singles, couples, divorced, widowed or bereaved individuals.

Congregation Ahavath Chesed

San Marco’s St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran, Congregation Ahavath Chesed and Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church look forward to the seasonal opportunity to connect with members and attract visitors. Websites provide complete service and event schedules.
“Our Advent and Christmas music complement scripture readings in services; our holiday season extends to January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany. Interfaith worship distinguishes our 5th annual joint service of Advent Lessons & Carols with All Saints Episcopal Church – December 9th, 6 p.m., St. Mark’s. A simpler service is Dec. 12, Birthday for Christ, a program by the children. For those in pain from illness, bereavement, employment or addiction issues, Dec. 21st (winter solstice) is The Longest Night: a quieter service with healing elements,” Tony Cruz said. Cruz is St. Mark’s Director of Music Ministries/ Cantor.
Congregation Ahavath Chesed focuses more on Chanukah than typical Jewish tradition because it precedes Christmas. They utilize e-blasts, newsletters, social media, interfaith celebrations and community service for adults and youth.
“As a reformed Judaic congregation we are inclusive and welcome everyone. We foster universal values of treating neighbors as self to better the world, freedom of religion, human rights, worldwide literacy (key to tolerance and peace), the Passover message of sharing that none go hungry, the belief that a good person who does right receives salvation,” Sam Griswold said. Griswold is Temple Membership/ Marketing Coordinator.

Tony Cruz, Music Director and Cantor for St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran

Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church commemorates the 5th anniversary, on Dec. 23, of the 2007 fire that destroyed the church. As a result of that tragedy and the community outpouring of support and assistance, the holiday season holds additional meaning for the congregation. The new sanctuary was dedicated January 2010.
“The choir will present special music on Dec. 23, a combined service, 10:30 a.m. The more informal family and children’s service is 4:30 p.m., with the beautiful, traditional Service of Lessons & Carols at 11 p.m., Christmas Eve,” Laraine Humbert said. Humbert is pastoral assistant at the church.
Riverside Presbyterian, St. Matthews Catholic Church and St. Catherine’s Episcopal have longstanding traditions to mark the holy season and year-round community service opportunities to share with visitors.
“Riverside Presbyterian has beloved traditions people cherish, like the annual Christmas Concert & Dinner, first Sunday of December,” Cliff Thomas said. “We have a strong belief in social ministries, helping the Salvation Army and through our Caring Tree Sunday (12/9), members adopt needy children to provide whatever they need. We urge all to pause and be still, despite the holiday rush, as together we journey through Advent to Christmas.” Thomas is RPC Director of Communications.
St. Matthew’s Catholic plans extra masses, special music and a single service on Christmas Sunday, 10:30 a.m. Their mission of community service includes: Giving Tree Angels – parishioners adopt a needy child or family; year-round serving and providing dinner, clothing or other needs at Sulzbacher Center, St. Francis Soup Kitchen (Immaculate Conception Catholic Church) or City Rescue Mission.
“We focus on helping people not as blessed, not just during the holidays but year-round and welcome visitors to join us in church and in service to others,” Madelyn Roberson said. Roberson is St. Matthew’s Parish Secretary.

St. Matthew's Catholic Church interior/altar

St. Catherine’s Episcopal is a neighborhood family-oriented church serving the Westside, also with a strong focus on community service year-round through their Rosa Brannen Food Pantry, homebound, nursing home and hospital ministries. At Christmas they invite the community to attend holiday worship and activities, then consider joining their church family, according to Marian Daniel, parish secretary.
“We invite visitors to join us in traditional activities, including Greening of the Church, Sunday before Christmas or in worship at Christmas Eve services for families and children, 4:30 p.m., or 11:00 p.m., both with Communion,” Daniel said. “All are welcome Dec. 30, 9:30 a.m. for the Nine Lessons & Carols with Holy Communion.”

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

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