Chase Olaf Watkins (center, TOT pre-school at Sydenstricker United Methodist Church) and Ada Mae Watkins (right, first grade at Orange Hunt Elementary School) of Springfield decorate Chrismon symbol ornaments at Burke United Methodist Church.
Photo by Tim Peterson.
A tuba-playing shepherd broke from playing Christmas carols to snap cell phone pictures of a tall sheep and two young girl-sized shepherds. The “Selfie” station with biblical-themed costumes was the first stop for Edie, Olive and Tommy Webster of Fairfax at the Burke United Methodist Family Advent Celebration.
December 30 marked the first Sunday of Advent, the first season in the Christian calendar that precedes the birth of Jesus Christ and the celebration of Christmas. The church celebration included activities such as ornament-making, cookie-decorating and interactive storytelling.
Katie Webster, the church Director of Education, said, “The event used to be held more in the middle of the month, but we’ve changed it to the first day of Advent to better equip families to celebrate the whole season.” The annual event is a major gathering for members of the congregation as well as the community.
“We’ve had some major in-house makeovers here and it’s really great to have people from the community come in and see what the team has done,” said Springfield resident Douggie Royer, the church Youth Director. “We can all have a good time, decorate cookies, shop, all that jazz.”
Springfield resident Linda Watkins and her children Ada Mae and Chase Olaf decorated pairs of white paper cutouts of Christian symbols called Chrismons with glue, glitter and bells. One of each will go on a special tree in the church and the other goes home with the artist.
“We love coming here,” Watkins said. Her family was there with friends for the second straight year. “It’s great having the kids coming together, getting a little culture. It’s a good reminder of the season.”
FAMILIES also created felt banners depicting shepherds and Magi travelling to Bethlehem to visit the newborn baby Jesus. Demetrius Mitchell, a junior at West Springfield High School and member of the church youth group, attended the Advent celebration for the first time.
“With my banner I’m just trying to express the Christmas spirit,” said Mitchell, whose creation featured a felt rendering of three-dimensional purple glass ornaments resting on a pine branch. “Being here is about unity, about not being judged. Here, everyone is everyone, and everyone believes and loves each other.”
In addition to being a kickoff for the Christmas season, the church’s Advent celebration helped transition the spirit of giving from Thanksgiving into December. A common area in the front of the church had Christmas basket sign-up tables and collection bins for ECHO (Ecumenical Community Helping Others), one of the food and clothing outreach organizations serving Burke and Springfield.
ATTENDEES could also sign up to volunteer for the church hosting a hypothermia prevention shelter the week of Dec. 14 through Dec. 21. That effort is being done in collaboration with the Fairfax-based emergency shelter, food and medical organization FACETS.
Finally, church member and Burke resident Christine Eads was set up at a table across from the ECHO collection area, promoting the fifth annual Santa’s Secret Workshop. The workshop is a kids-only event put on by Duffy House, a long-term care and support organization for victims of domestic violence and their children that Eads founded. Children of violence survivors will be able to shop there for Christmas gifts for their families.
The Duffy House Santa’s Secret Workshop takes place on Dec. 6, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Burke United Methodist Church, 6200 Burke Centre Parkway in Burke. The public can register to attend, sponsor a survivor or make a general donation online at www.theduffyhouse.org/events.