The Rev. David Brighton of Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Warner Robins talks about the church’s 14th annual Helping Hands Christmas Meal presented Christmas Day.
Q: Who is your Christmas meal for?
A: Really for anyone who wants or needs to come for a traditional Christmas meal of turkey and ham and all the fixings plus the fellowship with others we all need at Christmas. Some may have a financial need and won’t have a good Christmas meal otherwise but others’ need may be the fact they just don’t have family in the area. Either way, it doesn’t matter, they’re welcome whether they’re families or individuals.
Q: Where is it at?
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A: It’s at Warner Robins First United Methodist at 205 N. Davis Drive from noon to 2 p.m. Christmas Day. We’ve had such a good relationship with First UMC through the years and are grateful they let us use their great dining hall where they serve community meals throughout the year, but not Christmas Day. But we deliver meals, too, on Christmas.
Q: How many meals do you serve?
A: About 250 to 300 each year and of those maybe about 125 are delivered to people who can’t get out due to illness, age or some other reason.
Q: How do you arrange meal deliveries?
A: People can call our church at 478-922-1418 and get on the list for a delivery. That’s also the number people can call if they want to volunteer to serve alongside us. We began, organize and lead it but people from other churches, organizations and individuals help, too. There are families and individuals that have volunteered for quite a few years running. It’s part of their tradition.
Q: How many volunteers does it take?
A: I suppose around 40 or 50. There’s a lot of volunteering and preparing and cooking ahead of time then there are the people who make the deliveries and serve the actual meals in shifts on site. And don’t forget there’s clean-up. We love to leave everything as nice as or better than when we came. It’s good to know about volunteers ahead of time so people can call the church number, but we welcome those who just drop by to help. We find something for them to do.
Q: What kind of response do you get from your volunteers?
A: Most are grateful to get to help someone. I get comments that they’re glad to serve a good, hot meal and show Christ’s love and their own love for others in their community that way. They like talking of what they have to help others. As a church, we’re part of the community and delighted to show our love and concern for people in this way and in the many other ways were involved. Like supporting and working with the women’s shelter, Family Promise, Angel Tree ministry, Lutheran Service of Georgia and quite a few other groups and efforts, including our own tutoring program for about 35 elementary school kids near our church at 336 Carl Vinson (Parkway).
Q: This is the 14th year you’ve done the Christmas meal, how did it start?
A: That’s kind of interesting. One of our members, one of our young members, got in trouble with the law and kicked out of the county. They ended up homeless in Atlanta and a minister there help him out, got him turned around, and when he came back here he asked me, “Pastor, is there something we can do here for those less fortunate and homeless?” That’s when this got started 14 years ago.
Q: And it’s administered each year by your church’s vicar, right?
A: That’s right. The third year of four years in Lutheran seminary is spent serving in a local church under a pastor. That student is called a vicar. They get the chance to perform pastoral roles like preaching and teaching, visiting the sick and working with various ministries and outreaches. It’s our vicar who plans and oversees the Christmas meal and every year and it’s part of a great learning experience.
Q: How long have you been pastor here?
A: Since 1999, so I guess you could say we like it here quite a lot. I’m originally from Philadelphia. One thing I enjoy about the Christmas meal is getting to just sit and talk with people and share in the lives that way, hear their stories. They have such interesting things to say and amazing experiences to share. At the first Christmas, the angel said he brought news of peace on earth to people of all kinds and backgrounds so it’s a great opportunity to fellowship with others.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.