published Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Taking Christmas out of the church

While Christmas is nearly a month in the rearview mirror, I can’t help sharing a Christmas story printed in the most recent newsletter of St. Thaddaeus’ Episcopal Church.

The story represents Christmas in action or, more accurately, Christ in action. While most churches are involved in outreach during the holiday season and many throughout the year, this story bears retelling because of the circumstances involved.

When the Rev. Hugh Jones arrived at his church just off Highway 58 on Christmas Eve, a message on the answering machine voiced concern about a woman who lived not far from the church and was hungry.

“There are those right in our very own neighborhood,” the congregation’s interim rector said in the newsletter, “who are hungry and hungry regularly.”

The caller had once worked with the woman’s mother, she explained, and had been trying to look out for the woman but lived in another part of the area, which was now covered in several inches of snow.

The woman, who is now in her mid-60s, not well and lives alone, had been a member of St. Thaddaeus’

many years ago but, to Jones’ knowledge, is not currently a member of any church.

“She’d hit on hard times,” he said.

So on the day after Christmas, a Sunday, when many churches had canceled services, Jones stopped at a grocery store on the way to St. Thaddaeus’ and bought $75 worth of canned goods. And in his sermon, before a significantly smaller-than-usual crowd of 22, he suggested they take the groceries to the woman after church.

You might figure there’d be several who would beg off, hoping to get home to watch an NFL game or to avoid a wait at Red Lobster.

But 20 of the 22 — the other two were tasked with counting the offering — formed a vehicle procession and traveled to the woman’s house.

Jones said he wasn’t surprised but pleased that so many came along.

“It didn’t take but a few minutes,” he said. “It was neat to pull up in the snow and watch car after car pull up. Everybody picked up a bag.”

The woman, Jones said in the newsletter, “gratefully received the food.”

Since then, he said, the church has begun to pursue Meals on Wheels and other social-work contacts for the woman, who has no transportation.

The incident, on the first Sunday after Christmas, traditionally a day of low attendance for many churches — and more so because of the snow, is another reminder of what is so often done in Jesus’ name.

“We clergy types generally find it difficult to worship at an extravaganza like the Christmas Eve service,” said Jones. “We are too busy worrying about how things are going and whether everyone else is having a good experience. But as I drove off from the woman’s house on the 26th ... it surely did feel like Christmas.”

Contact Clint Cooper at or 423-757-6497.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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GreenKepi said...

"But as I drove off from the woman’s house on the 26th ... it surely did feel like Christmas”, he said. Just maybe, this is one of the reasons that Jesus and His Apostles never celebrated birthdays. Just maybe they were more concerned about helping others in need than celebrating 'self'. Anyway, this group was living 2 Corinthians 1:4, instead of just talking about it ("...who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God)...this is what its all about!!!

January 22, 2011 at 7:44 a.m.
slr3 said...

As a member of St. Thaddeus , I'm sorry I wasn't there on that Sunday. This story makes me proud to be associated with this church & Hugh Jones.

January 22, 2011 at 1:26 p.m.
laurastacy said...

Best article! Best place to find and print coupons of major brands during holidays is "Printapons" search online and find.

January 23, 2011 at 1:46 a.m.
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