Darn. Yet another Christmas event. Can’t we just sit home and watch “Jeopardy!” instead?
In my holiday weariness, I plead guilty to experiencing just such an uncharitable initial reaction when first learning that I “had to” participate in the “Christmas in the Pines” event held Dec. 7 in the Pinehurst Fair Barn.
But shame on me. Even though it’s been a couple of weeks now, I still can’t stop thinking about that splendid gathering and how glad I am that I got to (not “had to”) be part of it. It also retaught me some valuable lessons about what the Christmas spirit is — or should be.
I’m not the only one who felt privileged to be there on that special evening.
“Several hundred people who were able to attend the recent ecumenical service were treated to a beautiful evening of Lessons and Carols,” Pinehurst resident Jim Heisey wrote in a recent letter in this section. “In support of the excellent work of the Moore County Literacy Council, a broad spectrum of residents throughout the county came together in a way I’ve seldom witnessed.”
Jim didn’t mention that, besides witnessing the service, he also took part in it as a member of the Emmanuel Episcopal Church choir. So did I. We clambered up the rustic wooden stairs to the festively decorated balcony to sing two numbers: “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come,” by Paul Manz, and the exquisite “Lully, Lulla, Lullay,” by Philip Stopford.
And as it happened, our dynamic and energetic young choir director, Homer Ferguson III — as if he didn’t have enough else to do in this busy season — played a key role in putting the whole shebang together as its artistic director. The Rev. Dr. John R. Jacobs of The Village Chapel in Pinehurst played the other leadership role as spiritual director.
“Ecumenical” was indeed the word for the evening, which included nine cycles of Advent-and Christmas-related prayers, readings and musical numbers presented by representatives of churches, community organizations and performance groups too numerous to list here.
Everything had been planned down to the minute and was performed almost flawlessly. Seldom does one experience such a glorious sequence of inspiring verses, heavenly harmonies (except for the squawkiness of my bass voice on some of the high notes), and exquisite tinkling and clanging of brass bells.
And all to raise money for a most
“The Moore County Literacy Council, based in the Read Moore Center in Southern Pines, teaches low-literacy adults how to read and write in English,” the printed program explained. “Since 1987, we have helped thousands of Moore County residents improve their reading and writing. We also teach English to speakers of other languages, with students representing 15 countries on four continents. When our students improve their reading and writing, they become more confident, articulate and social.”
By far the most emotionally moving elements of that memorable evening were provided by three of those MCLC students, Celeste McInnis, Emma Campbell and Petra Ibarra, each of whom bravely stepped in front of the hushed crowd to demonstrate their newfound reading skills by delivering readings like “St. Luke tells of the birth of Jesus” or “The shepherds go to the manger.” Not a dry eye in the house.
“A magical evening brought together in spiritual harmony a broad cross-section of our community,” wrote choir member Monika Brown. “The program unfolded seamlessly, from the Prelude that opened with the Red Door Ringers and the Pinecrest Holiday Madrigals to the lessons read by community leaders to the final ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ by the Joyful Noise of The Arc of Moore County and the hymn ‘Joy to the World.’”
As if all that weren’t enough, the final message was beautifully read by the first lady of North Carolina, Kristin Cooper, ending with: “We have seen his glory, the glory as of the father’s only son, full of grace and glory.”
Something tells me this first Christmas in the Pines observance won’t be the last.
“We were part of a worship service that struck a chord in our community unlike anything I have ever seen,” Homer said after it was all over. “We heard the story of Christmas, we sang the story of our faith, and we affirmed the strength and determination of the human spirit.
“The room was filled with love that night — and, if I may be so bold to say, the Holy Spirit as well.”
Contact Steve Bouser at (910) 693-2470 or by email at email@example.com.