By: Christa Meland
United Methodists across Minnesota brought the light of hope, peace, joy, and love to health care workers and their communities in December through the conference-wide “Go Light Your World” campaign.
The campaign encouraged congregations to thank local health care or other essential workers and to light up their buildings on Christmas Eve. The conference also took out a full-page ad in the Star Tribune to thank health care workers and let them know we’re staying home for them.
Many churches and individuals delivered hand-written cards to essential workers in their communities.
When Mora UMC discovered that its local hospital, Welia Health, employed 500 people, the small church knew it couldn’t write cards for all of them, so instead, members prepared a fruit basket for each of its 15 departments.
“Our only motivation was to show how much we care about and appreciate the folks at Welia,” said Rev. Deb Schaffran.
Meanwhile, during the week of Christmas, Rebecca Coleman gave cards to three Cub Foods employees she encountered at the store. She wrote that she really appreciated the work they do to keep people safe when they came to buy essentials.
“I saw carts being wiped clean and an emphasis on masks and staying safe,” said Coleman, who serves as office manager at Eden Prairie UMC and attends Living Spirit UMC in Minneapolis. “I wanted them to know I saw and appreciated their care.”
Churches also brought light and cheer to their whole communities by lighting up their buildings on Christmas Eve and beyond.
Glendale UMC in Savage built a huge Advent wreath outside of its building. With a large, light-adorned Christmas tree in the middle and four bright “candles” surrounding it, people passing by couldn’t miss the beautiful and creative display.
Path of Grace UMC in Maplewood adorned its parking lot with more than 100 luminaries. The church had a candlelight processional around them and enjoyed a socially distanced worship service with candles, song, scripture, and a message. Leaders invited neighbors and gave 30 luminaries to those living adjacent to the church, many of whom placed the luminaries at the end of their driveways for passers-by to see.
Some churches chose to display candles in their windows on Christmas Eve. One of them was Mabel UMC, which gave off a lovely glow on its otherwise dark street corner.
“We wanted our community to know that although the people were not in the church, the church is in the people,” said Rev. Pam Seebach. “Our church and our faith are alive and we are loving the community even when the doors are locked. The lighted windows provided a symbol of that love and life in the dark nights.”
Park Avenue UMC in Minneapolis decided this Christmas Eve was the perfect time to light up the cross on the steeple of its building—which it hasn’t done for several years because of electrical issues.
“This winter, with unrest from neighborhood protests and COVID, and having the church being empty…the goal was to have it ready for the dark winter months as a beacon of hope on this corner where Park Avenue Church has stood for well over 100 years,” said Ann Bauer, office administrator, and communications and worship coordinator.
Blooming Grove UMC in rural Waseca County similarly turned all of its lights on and shined brightly on Christmas Eve.
“While the church was empty this Christmas Eve, the light inside reminds us of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the hope that next year we will all be together,” said member Judy Mahler.
Thank you to all who participated in the Go Light Your World campaign!
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church