I am the deacon in the church of St. John the Evangelist in Leamington, Ont. My outreach ministry is as chaplain in Leamington District Memorial Hospital. Although my main ministry is to the patients, their families, and the staff, my call as a deacon includes the community as well.
Christmas is a time of year that can be either joyful, or sad, depending on one’s circumstances. For those of us who are fortunate to have enough money and a roof over our heads, the season is anticipated with joy.
The real meaning of Christmas, however, is that God sent Jesus as a baby into our world for us. It is a time to celebrate and give thanks to God for his great love. Christmas is a time to share God’s love doing whatever we can for his less fortunate children. I believe that it is also a time to raise awareness of social justice issues.
At our hospital, our pastoral care team has developed a program called Toys for Teens. We work in partnership with our local Salvation Army to provide Christmas gifts for children ages 12 to 16. (The Toys for Tots provides for younger children, but not enough for older children.) This program has been an overwhelming success for the three years of its existence. We have received many heart-warming stories from staff members who have children of this age and have made it a family project.
We also have a memorial service held on the first Sunday in December of each year during which all the patients who have died during the previous year are remembered, Their names are read out loud, the trees in front of the hospital are illuminated, and each family member receives a token of remembrance for their loved ones. We have a “Handling the Holidays” workshop every December for those who are grieving and not looking forward to a Christmas without their loved ones. We give suggestions to them about ways to cope, perhaps starting new traditions, and giving them permission to feel their grief over the season.
St. John the Evangelist
Diocese of Huron