Ancient Ritual Has Religious Meaning
Most of us love and observe the secular tradition of bringing greenery into our homes at the start of the Christmas season, and using evergreens to festoon railings, lampposts, windowsills and walkways outside.
It’s more than just a decoration, says Donna Cain, worship director at Hillsboro Baptist Church: “The symbolism of the greenery is eternal life. The greens never change color, they are always alive in every season. The red berries of the holly have been said to remind of the drops of blood that were shed for us. The circular shape of wreaths also speaks of eternity and eternal life.”
At Hillsboro, decorating the church is used as a fun family time, and this year’s event, the last Sunday of November, included Christmas songs, scripture reading, and refreshments. There’s even a Bible verse recommending the practice, Cain said: “The Glory of Lebanon shall come unto you, the fir tree, the pine tree and the box together, to beautify the place of your sanctuary.” (Isaiah 60:13)
Festive Homecoming at Historic Church
Consecrated in 1867 and rebuilt and re-consecrated in 1915, Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Greenwood was a key part of the network of churches establishing a faithful community for Virginia’s rural areas. Parish members and the community at large were welcomed last month for tours of the beautiful grounds, music, children’s activities, nature walks, and cider and doughnuts from the famous truck.
Visitors admired the immense organ, dedicated in 2005, a tracker-action organ designed to last for centuries. The Emmanuel organ has casework of French walnut, carved pipe shades and Celtic panels, and extensive mortar and tenon joinery. It’s a mechanical, rather than an electric instrument, with 1,088 pipes, two keyboards and a pedal. Organist Larry Mark Smith, who’s played the organ for nearly 12 years––since about two years after the Howell’s organ was installed––said the organ was among the finest of the many he’s had the pleasure to play. Comfort, spacing and the light touch of the mechanical organ “make playing a dream,” he said.
An activity for the children was making colorful “gratitude turkeys,” colorful reminders of the good things in their lives.
Mt. Moriah Honors First Responders
The area’s behind-the-scenes heroes got some well-earned recognition last month, when Mt. Moriah welcomed first responders from Rockfish Valley Rescue Squad, Western Albemarle Rescue Squad, Crozet Volunteer Fire Department, Earlysville Fire Department and the E911 Dispatch Office.
Also in attendance were veterans from the Air Force, Army and Navy; and a retired U.Va. policeman. After the service Mt. Moriah hosted a “thank you” reception for the veterans and first responders and their families in the social hall.
Hope Tree, Handbells, Kwanzaa at Tabor
To support missions abroad, Tabor Presbyterian Church is displaying a “Hope Tree.” The Hope Tree, located in the fellowship hall, is decorated with ornaments picturing the children who reside at Hope House in Thailand, a home for children of families living in tribal areas in the mountains in northern Chiang Mai. The children, at risk of being sold for sex trafficking, now live at Hope House and attend public schools. Donations for ornaments at the church will buy bricks to finish building a permanent dormitory for the children.
Tabor invites the community to a couple of special holiday events at the church: a handbell concert Sunday, December 10; and a Kwanzaa workshop at 2 p.m. December 16.
The non-profit Love Inc. (Love in the name of Christ) partners with some area churches and has close ties with others. With local offices in Charlottesville and Fishersville, the unique charity has as its goal to provide meaningful help to those who need it, help that not only addresses immediate needs but systemic poverty, said long-time director Ray Klein. Coordination among churches is one way to avoid duplication: For instance, one church in the system collects and distributes personal grooming supplies and another, children’s clothes, instead of each church having its own program. There’s a spreadsheet online that lists specific and ongoing needs, then notes how the need has been resolved.
Several years ago, when low-income people were walking away from under-water mortgages, it became apparent from what was left behind that many families found it cheaper to get used clothing at clothes closets each week than spend the considerable amount of money needed to wash them at a commercial laundromat, so organizers set up a location where people could wash their family’s clothes.
“We’re always trying to think in the long term,” said Klein. An example is coordinating cars from donors (including one in Crozet) with deserving workers, donations that have a significant impact on a family’s economic health. “Although I sometimes feel like Solomon with a sword and a baby,” Klein admitted.
A recent effort is aimed at addressing the factors that may be keeping a family in poverty. Love Inc.’s “Transformational Ministry” trains mentors to look beyond immediate needs and focus on long-term recovery. Volunteers are trained over many weeks in “Redemptive Compassion,” where they learn, through a series of case studies, to teach clients to make better decisions. In turn, the neighbors they’re counseling commit to many weeks of structured sessions on “Affirming your Potential.”
Volunteers are always needed, Klein said, to help at the office, work in the field, or join the transformational ministry. Call 434-977-7777.