12/23/09 — Area churches busy during Christmas season

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Area churches busy during Christmas season

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on December 23, 2009 1:46 PM

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The Rev. Marshall K. Thompson, pastor of Bear Creek Missionary Baptist Association, helps people in need pick out donated clothes at the association's headquarters in Goldsboro on Tuesday.

Live nativity scenes, Christmas cantatas, visits from Santa and special worship services are just the beginning of Christmas preparations for many Wayne area churches -- church memberships also try to reach outside their doors during the holiday season.

"We think of those that Jesus would most want us to help in celebration of his birthday," said Dr. Fred Clark, pastor of First Christian Church on East Ash Street.

First Christian is one of the many churches and groups involved in Operation Christmas Child, a program headed by the Rev. Billy Graham's son, Franklin, that sends shoeboxes full of toys and personal hygiene items to children around the world. Adamsville Baptist Church annually serves as a central collecting point for the boxes.

Lynn Thaxton, secretary at Stoney Creek Free Will Baptist Church, said her church is one of the churches that is involved in the program. An adult Sunday School class and another youth group from the church recently went to Charlotte to put together Operation Christmas Child boxes. Ms. Thaxton said the report came back that 140,000 of the boxes had been assembled there for shipment overseas.

Rufus Butner, of Westwood United Methodist Church on U.S. 70 West, said his church took a personal approach to charity this holiday season.

"We adopted two families for Christmas, in fact, Christmas and Thanksgiving," Butner said. "One, we have a 9-year-old girl who has cancer, and (we) also helped a lady who lost her husband, and she has three children."

Westwood United Methodist, like many other area churches, also puts together "big boxes for our shut-ins" or other people bound to their homes.

Some ideas are smaller, but arguably just as important, when church members bring in Christmas cards in advance, which are filled out by Sunday school classes.

The cards are then delivered to people on Sundays, Butner said.

"Christmas is about giving, and it's not about receiving. We receive from Christ, and we should share that -- not just wish people a merry Christmas, but finding different ways to let people know that they are not forgotten in this economic situation.

Still others have pet projects to support, such as the Wayne County Pregnancy Center.

Dr. Richard A. Glosson, the pastor at Union Grove Original Free Will Baptist Church in Fremont, said gifts to the Pregnancy Center come from a tree.

"We list things that we know that they need, things like wipes, diapers, that sort of thing," Glosson said.

Then, each of the items is written on an ornament that is hung on a small tree. Parishioners take turns picking an ornament and buying that necessity, Glosson said.

"We ask people to take an angel and fulfill what's on the tree," Glosson said.

The children have a Christmas party as well -- with a special guest, as in Mr. Kris Kringle -- at which children receive gifts.

Some, especially the older children, choose to forgo their gift, using the money instead to make a purchase from a Samaritan's Purse catalog. The catalog allows the child to pick the charity he or she is most interested in, the pastor said.

"That's the thing that we're trying to do," Glosson said, referring to the imparting of Christian ideals.

Other activities involve getting out into the community. The children at Union Grove Original Free Will Baptist Church's, like those at many other area churches, sang Christmas carols for the residents at an assisted living center in Pikeville, also handing out gifts.

Other churches are also offering highly structured entertainment for the holiday season.

Rosalyn Lomax of First Presbyterian Church on East Ash Street said from the church performed a musical called "Child of the Promise," a "Broadway-style musical proclaiming the Christmas story.

And like many other churches, First Presbyterian is also planning a special worship service on Christmas Eve.

For First Presbyterian, it's three different services, including a "Family Service," at 5 p.m., which includes a children's nativity scene, then at 7:30 p.m. the church presents "Lessons and Carols," followed by a candlelight communion at 10 p.m. Visitors are welcome, Glosson said.

He added that he feels especially encouraged when his congregation visits people outside of the church.

"To see the smiles on their faces and to get the hugs and all, it lets them know that they're still loved and appreciated even though they're not going to be able to be at church," the pastor said.