Christmas 1998

by Mike Roberts, Church Historian

As we enter the Christmas season, we might well take a look back to see how our church celebrated Christmas 25 years ago. That would have been December 1998. The prospect of a new millennium was just a year away. The information technology revolution had begun to make its presence fully known in our hour-to-hour and day-to-day lives. In fact, discussions were underway to create our own Heritage website. Elinor Artman was still serving part time as our minister. Board of Trustees members included Pat Murray, Peg Fay-Feder, Jill Frank, Sam Gamble, Julie Kane, Barb Lyon, Dawson Smith, and Rod Vivian. Layne Richard-Hammock was Religious Education Director, Connie Booth was Music Director, Stephanie Wilson edited the Heirloom, and Linda Fischer was Office Manager.

To open the Christmas season, the Clara Barton Guild hosted a holiday dinner for all the women of the church. The event took place on Thursday, December 3rd and was held at Jeckle’s Restaurant. RSVPs were to be phoned to Julie Kane.

A series of monthly meetings were being held at the church and were identified as “A Holy Curiosity.” A topic was offered for each Friday night meeting and participants were to bring readings or present their own thoughts about the topic. The topic for the December meeting was “What Brings Me Joy?” Tracy Spak was to serve as the facilitator and questions regarding the program could be directed to her or John Simpson.

Heritage members were encouraged to participate in the Beech Acres “Hug-A-Family” project. Gift tags were posted on the bulletin board and HUUC participants could select one or more items to purchase for needy families. The items were then delivered to Beech Acres for distribution to the families. Helen Armstrong was the contact person for the project.

In addition to Heritage activities, a schedule was presented in the Heirloom about activities at “The Mountain,” the UU retreat in Western North Carolina. It was mentioned that from December 23 to 26 there would be an “Appalachian flavor for a celebration away from the materialism and stress that often accompanies Christmas.” Among the activities offered were wreath making, fireside storytelling by Lee Knight, hikes, and an old-time gift exchange. A Candlelight Christmas Eve service was to be led by the Mountain Quartet.

On December 13th, the RE Christmas Pageant was held. The children marched in to the tune of “The Friendly Beasts.” They exited the worship area to “The First Nowell,” the original Cornish version of the song modernized as “The First Noel.”

The Sunday Christmas service was led by Elinor Artman on December 20th. The children joined in song with the congregation to “People, Look East.” The story for all ages was read by Layne Richard-Hammock, after which the youngsters went to the Great Hall for their Christmas party. A hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter” was sung by all before the prayer and choral response. The title of Reverend Artman’s sermon was “Almost the Night Before” which reflected on the Religion of Charles Dickens. After her sermon a duet was sung by Chris Stafford and Bob Moorhead entitled “Sweet Little Jesus.”

The Heritage celebration of Christmas was concluded with the annual Christmas Eve service. No services were held on Sunday, December 27th.

In honor of Charles Dickens, who flirted with Unitarian belief for a brief time in his life, it might be appropriate to visit some of Dickens’ thoughts in “A Christmas Carol.”

  • “Reflect upon your present blessings—of which every man has plenty—not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
  • “Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wanderings.”
  • “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”
  • “There is nothing in the world as irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour.”
  • “And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless us, Everyone.”

Photo courtesy of Mike Roberts.