2010-12-17 / Community

First Congregational Welcomes Holidays

The advent candles are now burning. First Congregational Church has begun its 124th annual celebration of the Christmas season. This past Friday evening, Deacon Kathy Woods flicked the switch to light the Christmas tree in front of the church, at 320 Beach 94 Street, while church members sang Christmas carols and sipped hot chocolate.

Then, on Saturday, the biggest fundraiser of the year took place—the Christmas Bazaar and Fresh Ham Dinner. The fresh hams (enough to serve 100!) were cooked up by Chef Eric Smith and served, family style, by a crew of church volunteers, together with mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans. This was followed by coffee, tea and pie for dessert.

The bazaar tables were again anchored by First Congregational’s dedicated “church ladies,” who baked, cooked and sewed for weeks to prepare a variety of beautiful gift items. Pat Warren of Rockaway Park continues to make and sell lovely soaps and lotions each year, even though she recently lost her long-time beloved partner in this volunteer fund-raising venture, her husband Tommy. Peggy Koli of Rockaway Beach produces home-made jams, jellies, and canned bean salad, using some of the fruits and vegetables she grows in her backyard. She also bakes a basket of heavenly loaves of bread for the auction table. Roberta McHugh of Arverne bakes cookies and cakes to sell; her neighbor, Lillian Stuart, is the artisan of home-made Christmas ornaments and knitted goods. Many other women, men and teens in the congregation assist with setting up and coordinating the dinner and bazaar.

This coming weekend, after the Sunday service, a multi-cultural childrens’ winter music celebration will take place at 12:30 p.m., led by Kelly Sessoms Newton and Rebekkah Rodriguez-Thompson. The community is invited to attend; there will be Christmas songs in English and Spanish, and Kwanzaa songs, as well.

The community is also invited to join church members on Friday, December 24 at 9:30 p.m., for one of the highlights of the year, the Christmas Eve candlelight service with live nativity pageant. Then, on Friday, December 31 at 7:30 p.m., the congregation will kick off their anniversary celebration of 125 years in Rockaway Beach by welcoming members of the community to join us for a family-oriented game and song night and healthy potluck meal in the church basement. All are requested to also bring a box or can to contribute to our community food pantry. Just before midnight, participants will be invited to walk upstairs and enter the darkened sanctuary to watch and wait in silence for the arrival of 2011, meditating on hopes and prayers for peace and social justice, and making resolutions to live a healthy life. The event is free of charge to all who bring a healthy potluck contribution or a beverage to share. For others, a $5 donation is requested. The celebration will conclude at 1:00 a.m.

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