St. Paul's in Holdenville celebrated Christmas by meeting and inviting new neighbors in their community to a festive Christmas pageant and potluck. St. Paul's applied for a $500 experimental grant from the Diocese to try out this new event.
They hoped to provide an opportunity for neighborhood residents to become familiar with the customs and culture of the Native American community in the Christmas season. The event had a Native American themed Nativity Pageant with Children playing roles and adults providing music and narration. They invited a Native American flute player, a story teller, and other artists from around the state to participate. The event was not complete without traditional Native American foods and desserts. The goal was to increase their interaction with the Native-Americans in the area to build a better working relationship.
Deacon Cyntha Gilks-Ayres, a deacon at St. Paul's shared what they learned from this experiment, "Being an older congregation we learned the gift of working with children and how precious, curious, and eager to learn the little ones can be. They brought a glow to St Paul’s that will open the ideas for more work with the youth. We learned that our community, of not only Holdenville, but by extending invitation to others we “opened the doors” for other church leaders and their family. We discussed the importance of inviting others and the fact that our small town churches needs to."
Deacon Cyntha shared some of her favorite moments from the event, "Working with the youth was my favorite part and seeing those innocent faces and their enthusiasm. Then to hear the comments from other who made new friends through this event. We had two people come in who were needy and we fed them. They were able to take containers of food home with them for another meal. Then when I had several people tell me that it was very uplifting and joyful because that’s what the Christmas Season is all about."
Canon Steve, the Canon for Congregational Vitality, shared how vitality work has impacted St. Paul's, "At the beginning of this year, St. Paul’s, Holdenville, was at a crossroads. Would they find new vitality or lose their historic place in their community. They went all in on vitality work and are now the fastest growing congregation in our Diocese, if measured per capita. But more than that, they are finding and sharing in the vitality that God has for them and for Holdenville. They are active in their community, with a distinctive mission. They are practicing prayer and Bible study regularly. They are serving all their neighbors. The new vitality is palpable among them."
He also shared how failure inspire congregations to try again, "If you heard Pastor Kathryn Radach’s hilarious presentation about the first experiment grant St. Paul’s received at Diocesan convention, you will know that this new vitality did not come about in a straightforward linear way. There were lots of misfires along the way. But as they persevere, reflect, and try again. The are finding ways to come alongside what God is doing in their community. God is stretching them and growth them in the process."
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