On Christmas Day at Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton, Alberta, it’s hard to know who is a member of the church and who isn’t. With a job for everyone, community members and congregants alike, no one is left without something to do to get dinner on the table.
Twenty years ago, having recently moved to Edmonton from Ontario, a group of families began having Christmas dinner together and inviting members of the community to join them. Now they certainly have the big extended family they missed.
“This wasn’t something we started for the poor and not something we wanted to do for the community. Rather, we wanted to do something with them, to eat with them, to be family together,” describes Gary Duthler, a member of Bethel CRC and one of the organizers for the past 20 years.
“I once picked up a young man who recently moved from Quebec and brought him to dinner. On the way he was very tense and uptight and wondered if there was some ‘catch’ to the dinner,” Duthler said. “On the way home he said, ‘You just do it.’ And that’s exactly who we are as Christians and what we do. We didn’t turn him or anyone else into a ‘project,’ we just had a meal together.”
Twenty years ago, 50 people gathered for the first dinner. Today more than 200 show up for the meal. Treated to a full-course Christmas dinner with lots of dessert, guests are encouraged to take the leftovers home. “We just don’t think it’s necessary for anyone to be lonely at Christmas,” said Duthler.