December 23 – 25
Of Service and Services; An Ecumenical Christmas Eve
We arrived in Silverton after a rainy but uneventful drive and checked into the Silver Spur RV Park. We are actually in the same site we were in last year. After dinner, we watched a little TV and went to bed early.
The weather was cool and rainy, so the next morning we spent some time reading in front of the fire in the main lodge. They closed at noon for Christmas, so we went for a walk towards town and stopped to look at a restored 1928 Pirsch fire engine, which was used by the local Fire Department for many years and is still used in parades. One of the Volunteer Firefighters on his way to lunch was kind enough to take us inside for a closer look.
We had arranged to volunteer at a Community Dinner on Christmas Eve, hosted by the First Christian Church, and it was an interesting experience. It was started by a church member in 2008, when the recession had a big impact on the town, and was originally intended as a place where those who were homeless, the working poor, and the unemployed could come every Wednesday and get a full meal. There were 37 people at that first dinner; last week they served over 500. In July of this year, they served their 100,000th meal. Originally, the church board agreed to fund the dinners at $100.00 a month; they have never spent a penny of that money. It is run entirely by volunteers from churches all over town, and is a great example of ecumenism at its best. Several individuals donate the bread, milk etc. Last night we served 265 meals, and they considered that a slow night. They quite deliberately keep any verbal or physical signs of religion away from the dinner; there is no grace, and no religious pamphlets are displayed.
When we arrived at 4:30 looking a little lost, we were greeted with an almost embarassing warmth; “You’re the Canadians! You’re actually here!” After a quick prayer circle, we were put to work; Jeannine was in charge of doling out cranberry sauce, and I was on bun detail. The menu was…interesting; cooked ham with beef gravy (?), mashed potatoes, salad, cooked broccoli, corn, cranberry sauce, buns, and a variety of beverages. (Turkey is a Thanksgiving thing in the States; it’s ham for Christmas.)
After dinner, we helped clean up, and continued to be thanked by everyone. The instant acceptance and friendliness of these people reminded us of our Thanksgiving experience at Bass Lake a couple of years ago. We now have a standing invitation to return.
We were invited to attend their Candlelight Service, which we did. It was quite lovely (if not very liturgical), with songs and readings. It was quite low-key, but I was impressed by the fact that it involved all ages, from the very young to seniors. Afterward, we went and parked Lucy over by St. Paul’s Church and killed some time reading and resting until 11:30, when carol singing began, followed by Mass at midnight. The Homily was captivating, in that it went beyond the standard “Christmas Story” into real life. He used examples like “volunteering to feed the homeless is Christmas”, “caregiving for Alzheimers patients is Christmas” to reinforce the point that the Christmas Story should play itself out throughout the year; Christmas Eve is merely the celebration of how it all began.
After returning to our site, we opened a bottle of wine and de-briefed our experiences, finally going to bed at 3:15! Needless to say, we slept in, awaking to find that Santa had come:
As I write, Jeannine is out at the picnic table doing some quilting; it’s cool, but apparently not quite that cool!
At the end of Christmas Day, what could be better than Shepherd’s Pie?