This story has been updated to correct information provided regarding the days the food pantry is open.
By Sarah Riehm
St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church
St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church has been busy decorating the building and the sanctuary in preparation for Christmas guests. The centerpiece of the sanctuary is the beautiful Chrismon tree, decorated lovingly by members of the church’s Altar Guild.
The Chrismon tree tradition began in 1957 in a Lutheran church in Virginia and has become a popular Christmas tradition in churches of many denominations. The word “Chrismon” is a combination of the words CHRISTmas and MONogram. Each of the Chrismon ornaments represents symbols of the Christian faith, from the sign of the fish to the Chi Rho monogram — the first letters in the Greek word for Christ.
“The Chrismons on our tree are a very special part of our Christmas tradition here at St. Patrick’s,” said Lynne McCrudden, head of the church’s Altar Guild. “They were handmade by a cherished and dedicated member of our congregation, Linda Warren, who passed away in 2015. This lovely Chrismon tree first appeared in our sanctuary in 2012 and we hope to continue Linda’s tradition long into the future.”
“This year, worship during the Advent and Christmas season is quite different,” said the Rev. Lyn Burns, who serves as interim rector. “Our sanctuary is closed, but we still offer our regular 10 a.m. service of worship via livestreaming through the church’s website.”
You’ll find the livestreaming service at www.stpatrickspagosa.org, by clicking the WORSHIP tab on the top. That page also includes links to prior worship services as well, so if you miss the 10 a.m. service, you can watch it any time later. Sunday morning worship offers the traditional Episcopal Rites of Worship, as well as music of the season played on the organ by Music Director Sarah Riehm.
St. Patrick’s will also offer a traditional Christmas Eve service of worship and special music at 5 p.m. on Dec. 24. A Zoom Christmas service of lessons and carols will be broadcast at 10 a.m. Christmas morning, featuring members of the congregation reading beloved scripture passages and joining in to sing favorite Christmas carols.
“This year, we are offering something new to the community: a 5 p.m. Candlelight Vespers service,” Burns said. “We think of this as our Christmas card to the community. The service is an ecumenical, community-friendly service of poems, prayers, scripture and music designed to refresh the spirit and bring peace to the soul. So many people are facing extraordinary challenges this season, so we wanted to be a source of comfort and joy for our community.”
According to Riehm, “We know many people miss our Unplugged series that used to be offered monthly. Until we can meet again in the sanctuary, we hope these Vespers services will serve in a similar way, as a place of spiritual retreat and renewal. I hope you will join us on Dec. 20.”
Vespers services are available live or through the church’s YouTube channel — see the links in the earlier paragraph.
Recently, St. Patrick’s made a significant investment in new audiovisual equipment so it could broadcast worship services to the people of Pagosa Springs and beyond. The attic space was reconfigured into a recording studio, a window cut in the wall, and state-of-the-art cameras installed in the sanctuary. Dr. Todd Holman spearheaded the project.
“Once we realized that COVID closures would be with us for several months, we needed to find a way to reach our members, many of whom are part-time residents scattered across the country,” he said. “Now, members near and far can continue their cherished worship traditions. We also hope to be a resource for anyone longing to experience a worship service, as most in-person options are not currently available.”
Holman is joined by a dedicated A/V crew: Dr. Sam Pittmon, Heidi Tanner and Bill Crouse.
During December, St. Pat’s Food Pantry crew has been unusually busy preparing food boxes for the community. Wendy McAllister, head of a group of dedicated volunteers, said that the need is especially great this year.
“Our community is facing significant challenges due to COVID. We are giving out about 35-40 food boxes per week. Starting next week, we will distribute Christmas-themed boxes to bring an extra measure of joy to those in need. We provide food boxes to anyone who shows up,” said McAllister. “If you or your family needs food, please stop by our pantry on [Thursdays] and Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon. If you need a food box delivered, our transportation network will see that you receive a box.”
She added, “St. Patrick’s Food Pantry is of part the Archuleta County Food Coalition as well. There are six food pantries in the network who work closely together to support each other and our community. At least one of the six food pantries is open each day of the week to ensure access to food for those in need.”
To allow our volunteers time to enjoy this Christmas season, we will be open one day per week the last two weeks of December. Distribution will be on Wednesday, Dec. 23, and Thursday, Dec. 31, from 10 a.m. to noon. Call the church office at 731-5801 for additional information. If no one answers, leave a message and someone will get back to you promptly. St. Patrick’s Food Pantry is located in the Parish Hall north of the church, located at 225 S. Pagosa Blvd.
St. Patrick’s is abundantly grateful for the generous support it receives from the community. Contributions throughout the year have enabled us to keep our shelves stocked and reach the broader community affected by COVID-19.
If you feel moved to contribute shelf-stable dried or canned goods to St. Patrick’s or any of the food pantries of Archuleta County, collection boxes are located at the UPS Store or at Pagosa Brewing and Grill. Financial donations are also gratefully accepted.
“I welcome everyone in the community to join us for worship online, either our regular Sunday Service, Vespers or the beautiful Christmas Eve Service,” said Nancy Crouse, St. Patrick’s senior warden. “In these extraordinary times, I believe that by focusing on the real reason for the Christmas season, peace and hope can be found.”