Yesterday evening was Christmas Eve. My church, Summit on 16th United Methodist, held a candlelit worship service to celebrate the coming of the Christ Child.
I invited my friends from India, Juhi Banerjee and Amol Aggarwal, to come with me to the service. Over the summer Juhi had volunteered with me at Freedom School, which although it is not a religious thing, is held at the church. You can see photos of us and the kids and teachers and other staff here: Freedom School 2016. So Juhi knew the Summit building, but not what went on there on Sundays. I had asked her earlier this fall if she’d like to come to a worship service with me, and she said yes, but then the autumn got away from us and before we knew it, Christmas was upon us!
We had missed the opportunity to go to Summit’s wonderful all-faiths (and no-faith) Winter Solstice celebration earlier this week because I had a relapse of bronchitis–which I’m glad to say is much better now. So Juhi and I definitely wanted to take advantage of the Christmas Eve service because the sad fact is that she and her husband Amol are moving away in early January, since he has a new job. On the plus side, his new job is still in Ohio, but the minus is that it is about two hours away and is in the snow belt of Ohio, commonly referred to as ‘Snohio,’ making it a bit less likely that I’ll venture up there this winter.
But back to last night: luckily we got there just in time to have something to eat of the potluck dinner leftovers, because Amol and I were famished! 🙂
Then the service started. Amol had told me that he knew many Christmas carols by heart because he had gone to a private Christian school growing up in India. And there were many carols during the service. I particularly liked the intergenerational choir doing ‘Little Drummer Boy’ with lots of the children drumming along at the appropriate intervals, conducted strenuously by Pastor Robb Tarr. It was touching and somewhat comical. Touching in a different way were the solos of my friends Barb Wills, doing a gospel number, and Steven Dunn, who sang ‘O Holy Night.’
I enjoyed Pastor Laura Young’s sermon about the messiness of childbirth in general and how messy it must have been for Mary to give birth to Jesus, in particular. Pastor Laura stressed how difficult Mary’s journey to Bethlehem must have been, as an unwed teenager nine months pregnant and the fact that Mary was going through this powerful, vulnerable experience in an unknown place with very few comforts or possibly even necessities. I thought the sermon was very insightful, and it gave me a new perspective on an event that we tend to gloss over.
At the end of the service, the candles we had each been given were lit, with the person standing next to you lighting yours, then you lighting the next person’s and on and on. The Centrum, as we call our sanctuary, looked magical in the candlelight. At such a sacred time there was no way I would whip out a camera, but after the service Pastor Robb, who Juhi knew from Freedom School (he was the volunteer coordinator there) took a few photos of Juhi, Amol and me.
I have some other photos of Summit, which I’ll include here. First is Pastor Laura Young, our new pastor who started at Summit in October 2016:
Next some photos of our last lead pastor, April Blaine, who just left us early in the fall to take a big promotion after the stellar work she did at Summit. Here she is preaching at one of her last services:
In July this year, we had our annual outdoor service on the lawn over July the 4th weekend. Here Pastors Robb and April minister to the children of the congregation:
I got to sing and play guitar at the service that day!
I like the outdoor mural on our building, which doesn’t look much like a traditional Christian church:
Some scenes from inside Summit:
Summit on 16th UMC is an inspiring place filled with wonderful people following in Jesus’ footsteps. I’m so glad that Juhi and Amol, although they are of a different faith tradition, got to experience Christmas Eve at Summit on 16th! 🙂