Religion News: January 2019

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Christmas Pageant at Hope Presbyterian Church required no rehearsal. Submitted photo.

No Rehearsal Means Best Pageant Ever

There’s a role for everyone in the stress-free, low-key, no-rehearsal Christmas Pageant staged by Hope Presbyterian Church. “Flexibility is the name of the game,” said Lois Zollinhofer, who has directed the pageant for two years. Sarah LePore, who assisted her, will direct next year’s event. 

For instance, last year a three-year-old was frightened by taking the stage as a sheep, so her mother simply donned a larger sheep costume and went with her. For the most part, though, the actors are from three to 12 years old. 

The key is advance preparation, Zollinhofer said. The children show up for the regular service with their families and at some point they leave the service for 15 minutes or so. That’s when they receive the paper bag holding the handmade costume that determines their role. “Basically all the costumes start with a tabard,” she said. “That’s a sheet with a hole in the center for your head.” 

But not all the tabards are the same. Yours could be the right color and markings for a tree, or a shepherd or a lamb, or a wise man: animals also get a mask. No one is chosen for a role ahead of time, although Zollinhofer said they make sure that the roles of Mary and Joseph go to someone who inspires confidence. 

At least one person became attached to his role in the pageant’s two-year history: “It can be tiring, being a tree,” Zollinhofer said, “as they hold their arms out for a while. But I offered a young man who’d been a tree last year a chance at being a wise man and he declined.” 

But mostly, it’s just the luck of the draw. You show up, you grab a bag, you put on your costume and take the stage. There are no lines to learn because the action is driven by the narrators, chosen from the older children. There are also appropriate Christmas carols that help the story advance. No one needs to remember blocking, either: the stage is clearly marked with spaces for the different characters.

This year there were quite a few families from outside the church who showed up for the event, and Zollinhofer was glad about this. Having a few extra actors is a relief. “I can’t seem to shake the fear that we won’t have enough,” she said, “It takes about 16 people to stage the play. This year I looked out and there were 26.” It’s also good because she wants everyone to get into the community spirit. “We really want everyone to feel welcome.”

Churches Welcome Those Struggling with Alcoholism

You don’t have to drive far or wait long to find support if the holidays have shown you that your use of alcohol is beyond your control. Between 12-step meetings in Crozet, Waynesboro and Charlottesville, there are multiple opportunities every day to attend a meeting in a non-judgmental, welcoming setting.

“If you are willing to say you are an alcoholic, you can choose a closed meeting,” said Martha Woodroof, popular WMRA radio personality and author, and a recovering alcoholic who follows the 12-step program. “If you are not ready, or are there because of someone else who needs help, choose an open meeting.” 

Woodroof recalls attending several meetings before she was able to commit for good. “It took a night in the Amherst County Jail to scare me into getting real. The truth is I am a drunk who has two choices: I can either find a way to stay sober, or I will die a premature, painful and undignified death. Period. End of discussion.”

Woodroof said she is open about her experience because she wants people to know that everyone––old and young, professional, retired, educated, religious or not––can suffer from alcoholism; and can find help. She said this time of year is an important one for those wanting to make a change: “Attendance at meetings skyrockets,” she said. And she believes it’s fitting that the huge majority of meetings are in local churches: “Let’s be grateful for churches that really walk the walk,” she said. For those worried about confusion about their higher power––a key part of the 12-step program––she said it can be according to your own understanding of grace. 

Because of the anonymous nature of meetings, there’s often no number to call in advance. That’s okay, said Woodroof. “You can just show up. You’ll immediately see that people are laughing and greeting each other and it’s a relief to know they’ve all been through what you’re going through. They’ll do everything possible to make you feel comfortable.”

In Greenwood, Emmanuel Episcopal Church has Alcoholics Anonymous meetings Monday and Friday at 8 p.m. in the parish hall. In White Hall, there’s a regular 6 p.m. Tuesday meeting in the community center. In Waynesboro, there’s a meeting every day, thanks to the joint efforts of Second Presbyterian, St. John’s Episcopal and Main Street Methodist. 

In Charlottesville, there are meetings at almost any time of any day. The Jefferson District has a hotline for those needing emergency help, at (434) 293-6565, and the district’s website offers a great deal of information for finding help, including help for alcoholics in jail. Find out more at [email protected] There’s also a state listing searchable by place and time of meetings, aavirginia.com.

Story Time, Supply Drive at Batesville United Methodist

Members of Batesville United Methodist Church combined story time, community outreach and Christmas cheer this year with a children’s story time every Saturday in December, with sweet treats as well as stories. On the final Saturday, the stories were read by Santa himself. It’s a new tradition that they’ll keep, said church member Liz Layman.

Santa’s Story Time at Batesville United Methodist Church. Submitted photo.

In the New Year, it’s traditional for the church to collect items for a number of charities. They’ve set up their collection organization so that almost anything you can no longer use can be repurposed for a specific community need; and small, new items will find an appropriate home. The SHE house (which welcomes abused families) can use non-perishable food items, any kind of paper products, feminine hygiene, toiletries, back packs, tote bags, suitcases, double sheets, towels, soaps, tissues, hand sanitizers, toothbrushes, and any small household items. “Sometime these people leave home with the clothes on their backs and nothing else,” Layman said. The Afton School needs tissues, hand sanitizer, notebooks, paper, crayons, markers, back packs, rulers and other small school supplies. The SPCA appreciates dry and canned food, blankets, towels, placemats for small cages, and paper products; and the SPCA rummage store takes clothes, household knickknacks, kitchenwares, some electronics, and toys. Clean, gently used shoes go to the Charlottesville shoe drive.

The eclectic nature of their collection makes it easy for those wondering about a destination for each individual item: “We try to take everything in and send it to the appropriate place. We will find a home for it!” Layman said. 

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