(Photo: Diane K. Bert)
More than 400 women gathered for the each of the two evenings of the Advent by Candlelight event at the First United Methodist Church of Birmingham.
The Rev. Lindsay Hall called it an “opportunity to welcome the community.”
“Friends and family from near and far come for the start of Advent and celebrate what Advent is all about,” Hall said. “We get so busy that we forget what Christmas is all about. We can center ourselves and concentrate on love, joy, peace and hope.”
Jackie Keller, chairperson of the event, welcomed guests.
“A team of angels helped make this evening possible,” she said of the event, which began in 2001.
As guests arrived, many were awestruck by the beauty of the tables. Each was uniquely designed by a hostess. It was fun to wander among the tables and observe the original ideas.
Mary Jane Russell delighted in showing her table, which highlighted by treasures found at rummage sales.
“Our table is known as the rummage sale table, because I am chairperson of the rummage sale and people know the origin of the decor,” she said.
Each table hostess designs and decorates her table, invites guests, plans and makes desserts and greets her guests. Some tables were hosted by teenagers. Alyson Lauer said, “It is fun to see the creative flair.”
Jill Brouhard brought her china for the two tables she planned. Her decorations were beautiful.
An appealing array of appetizers was available as guests arrived.
Robyn Campagne planned and participated in the worship service. She identified people with compelling stories to tell and others with special musical talents. Her own beautiful singing was a major feature.
Tiffany Ericson and young Reagan Hoomaian charmed the audience with their duet. An ensemble of high school students sang with beautiful harmony. The guitar accompaniment by Christopher Freeman added a pleasant sound.
The melodious sound of 400 women singing was enjoyed by all.
“I am here for the first time,” Ann Singer said. “It is a beautiful event. It is nice that it is just for women. I like fellowship among women.”
More than 400 guests enjoyed the fellowship and delicious desserts at the Advent by Candlelight event. The beautiful table settings added to their delight. (Photo: Diane K. Bert)
There were deliberate plans to have a multi-generational program. Octogenarian Beth Emmert described the planning and early days of the current church building. A very touching moment occurred as Campagne described her recent diagnosis of cancer and her willingness to continue planning for Advent by Candlelight.
Teenager Chloe Burkett described the feeling of peace she feels at her Sunday evening church activities.
Beth Torrey’s descriptions of adopting and fostering children in a loving, nurturing manner created emotional responses.
“I was honored that they thought I had a story worth telling,” Torrey said.
She later mentioned that the men of the congregation are curious about what happens at Advent by Candlelight.
One of the teenage hostesses, Alexis Schueler, 15, said, “Because I am a hostess, I am not singing in the high school group so I get to be in the audience and hear them. It is really cool.”
“This is a lovely event. A friend invited me and I enjoyed the stories, singing and meeting new people. I am looking forward to next year already,” Heather Wilen said. “I have already been invited.”
Added Katie Koch: “I love it. It is a wonderful way to be together and get grounded as the holidays begin. It helps us remember the reason for the season.”
“I loved every minute of it, the prayers and singing were great. My granddaughter sang,” Connie Ribushofski said.
Chaundra Burkett summarized the feelings of many when she said, “I think this evening is special because I work here with young families and this is a wonderful way to get our hearts prepared for the season. We come together to slow down a bit before the craziness happens.”
Diane K. Bert is a Bloomfield Hills resident with a Ph.D. in educational psychology from Wayne State University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.