Taking Christmas out of the church

Taking Christmas out of the church

January 22nd, 2011 by Clint Cooper in Life Entertainment

While Christmas is nearly a month in the rearview mirror, I can't help sharing a Christmas story printed in the most recent newsletter of St. Thaddaeus' Episcopal Church.

The story represents Christmas in action or, more accurately, Christ in action. While most churches are involved in outreach during the holiday season and many throughout the year, this story bears retelling because of the circumstances involved.

When the Rev. Hugh Jones arrived at his church just off Highway 58 on Christmas Eve, a message on the answering machine voiced concern about a woman who lived not far from the church and was hungry.

"There are those right in our very own neighborhood," the congregation's interim rector said in the newsletter, "who are hungry and hungry regularly."

The caller had once worked with the woman's mother, she explained, and had been trying to look out for the woman but lived in another part of the area, which was now covered in several inches of snow.

The woman, who is now in her mid-60s, not well and lives alone, had been a member of St. Thaddaeus'

many years ago but, to Jones' knowledge, is not currently a member of any church.

"She'd hit on hard times," he said.

So on the day after Christmas, a Sunday, when many churches had canceled services, Jones stopped at a grocery store on the way to St. Thaddaeus' and bought $75 worth of canned goods. And in his sermon, before a significantly smaller-than-usual crowd of 22, he suggested they take the groceries to the woman after church.

You might figure there'd be several who would beg off, hoping to get home to watch an NFL game or to avoid a wait at Red Lobster.

But 20 of the 22 - the other two were tasked with counting the offering - formed a vehicle procession and traveled to the woman's house.

Jones said he wasn't surprised but pleased that so many came along.

"It didn't take but a few minutes," he said. "It was neat to pull up in the snow and watch car after car pull up. Everybody picked up a bag."

The woman, Jones said in the newsletter, "gratefully received the food."

Since then, he said, the church has begun to pursue Meals on Wheels and other social-work contacts for the woman, who has no transportation.

The incident, on the first Sunday after Christmas, traditionally a day of low attendance for many churches - and more so because of the snow, is another reminder of what is so often done in Jesus' name.

"We clergy types generally find it difficult to worship at an extravaganza like the Christmas Eve service," said Jones. "We are too busy worrying about how things are going and whether everyone else is having a good experience. But as I drove off from the woman's house on the 26th ... it surely did feel like Christmas."

Contact Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497.