Have faith: ’Tis the season

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The Rev. Chip Seadale accepts an award for Houses of Grace at the Permanent Endowment Fund award ceremony. —Ralph Stewart

updated 12/7 12:53 pm

Christmastime might be the perfect time to catch up with the Island clergy’s homeless ministry, Houses of Grace. The Rev. Chip Seadale from St. Andrew’s Church tells me the wheels are in motion for a “new and improved” overnight shelter program, which will begin Jan. 1 and run through March 31. The shelters will be open 7 pm to 7 am.

“We still need adult volunteers to help us staff the two shifts of two adults each,” he said. “The first shift can come and help serve dinner, check guests in, and then go home and sleep in their own beds. The second shift can have a leisurely dinner at home and come in just around bedtime and go right to sleep, serving an easy breakfast before they leave at 7 am.”

The Rev. Seadale said there are now three churches planning to host the shelter: St. Andrew’s in Edgartown, the Federated Church in Edgartown, and St. Augustine’s Church in Vineyard Haven.

He also mentioned that a few of the churches are hosting “warming centers” starting this week, places where anyone can come in to get out of the cold to grab a hot drink and rest awhile. They’re looking for adult volunteers to come and make the coffee and welcome the guests, and at least two volunteers will be needed. To find out more about either volunteer opportunity, call the Rev. Seadale at 508-627-5330.

Besides all the happenings surrounding Houses of Grace, the Rev. Seadale is planning for the Christmas season at St. Andrew’s, kicking events off with an open house party from 10 am to 2 pm during Christmas in Edgartown, on Saturday, Dec. 10. This open house includes a free hot lunch, cookies, and a chance to send a Christmas card to servicemen and women at Veterans Administration hospitals across Massachusetts. And the church’s musician, Griffin McMahon, will lead a Christmas concert at 12:30 pm at the church.

There’s a “Blue Christmas” service at St. Andrew’s on Monday, Dec. 19, at 5:30 pm. Blue Christmas services recognize that Christmastime can also be a time of sadness for those who have lost loved ones, who are alone at the holidays, or who are experiencing a job loss, financial hardship, or pain associated with health or relationship issues.

Christmas worship at St. Andrew’s begins Christmas Eve with a 4 pm service especially for families. There’s a choral service at 9:45 pm on Christmas Eve with candle lighting at both. Doors open for the Christmas Day service at 10 am.

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I caught up with Maureen O’Malley, parish administrator at Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven, the other day. The church experienced a tremendous loss in October, with the sudden death of its priest-in-charge, the Rev. Brian Murdoch. In a series of unfortunate events, on the day of Father Brian’s funeral in Boston at St. Paul’s Cathedral, the church experienced another hardship when the parish kitchen flooded, causing damage to the basement below, where a preschool is located. Besides the water damage, a group of parishioners had traveled to Boston for the Father Brian’s funeral service, and the ferry back to the Vineyard was canceled due to the weather.

A variety of ministers are coming to the Island to lead Sunday services at Grace Church until an interim priest can take over. In the meantime, Maureen said two of the weekly groups that the Rev. Murdoch founded at the church, the men’s group and the women-to-women group, are both going strong. The men’s group meets on Tuesdays at noon, and the women’s group meets on Wednesdays at noon. This Sunday, Dec. 10, the Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts will be preacher and celebrant at the 8 am and 10 am worship services.

“Grace is going through a transition now, with the tremendous loss of Brian and the parish water damage, and even with all that, the people of Grace are a warm, caring, faithful community, and I know we all will persevere,” she said.

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Good Shepherd Parish will open the doors of St. Elizabeth’s Church in Edgartown during the annual Christmas in Edgartown celebration Dec. 9 and 10. The church is usually closed during winter. Then on Sunday, Dec. 11, from 1 to 4 pm, St. Augustine’s Church hosts a Christmas Tea and Raffle, with theme baskets, Christmas centerpieces, and children’s grab bags.

All Christmas Masses will be held at St. Augustine’s Church, beginning with a Christmas Eve vigil Mass at 4 pm, a Brazilian Mass Saturday at 7 pm, and Christmas Day Masses at 9:30 am, 11 am, and 5 pm.

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Edgartown’s Federated Church has a full schedule coming up beginning next Sunday, Dec. 11, with a 10:30 am service titled “A Message of Love” for the third Sunday of Advent. A Carol Sing will be held that afternoon at 2 pm, and it’s open to anyone who wants to come and sing. The fourth Sunday of Advent, Dec. 18, at the 10:30 am service, brings “A Message of Joy.”

Christmas Eve services at the church include a 5 pm family service with hymns, and the children sharing the nativity story. A 10 pm traditional candlelight service with choral music under the direction of Peter R. Boak begins at 10 pm. Christmas Day, a service with carols and readings begins at 10:30 am, and the New Year begins on Sunday, Jan. 1, with a 10:30 am service.