Christmas is a time of giving and receiving. That was proven once again Dec. 17 when Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church held's its annual "Blessing of the Angel Gifts." The church sanctuary was filled with representatives of needy families waiting for their number to be called to receive gifts provided by generous donors.
These gifts were not just random presents. They were the fulfillment of specific requests by families that had signed up with the church last month.
The donors, parishioners from nine other United Methodist Churches, St. Aidan's Episcopal Church and members of the Mount Vernon Rotary Club, had purchased specific requested gifts and delivered them to Rising Hope on Russell Road. Each gift ranged in price from $30 to $40, according to Reverend Keary Kincannon, pastor, Rising Hope.
"We are giving out 608 gifts tonight. There are two gifts for each member of every family," he said. "We are so grateful that so many have contributed so much to us." The contributors are the "Angels" in the church's Angel Gift program.
In addition to the Rotary Club and St. Aidan's, this year's "Angels" were the following United Methodist churches: Andrew Chapel, Annandale, Burke Youth Group, Cameron, Christ, Franconia, Immanuel, Washington Farm, and Washington Street. Christ UMC and Barcroft Bible Church also aided in the organizing and distribution of the gifts.
"In spite of the wealth in the Mount Vernon area, there are many people who live along the Route 1 corridor who have such a small income they have nothing left after they pay their rent and other necessities," said Kincannon.
"RISING HOPE'S ANGEL GIFT PROGRAM and free Christmas Shop is the only way some families will get gifts to give and food to eat this Christmas season," he said. The validity of that statement was apparent on the faces of those who filled the church sanctuary Sunday night.
The church's Christmas Shop, which operates Dec. 19 to 21 from 9:30 a.m to 3 p.m. each day, will distribute approximately 1,000 gifts ranging in price from $10 to $25, according to Kincannon. "These are items we have collected throughout the year and have held for Christmas. They are not specific requests as we are distributing tonight," he explained.
Over the last 10 years nearly 10,000 gifts have been provided by "caring individuals in local congregations and organizations," according to Kincannon. "This is one of the events that truly signifies the meaning of Christmas to me," Laura Derby, Rising Hope administrator, told the assembled crowd.
"We are here tonight because many people have provided these gifts. But, none is as great as God's gift to the world," said worship leader Yvonne Cunningham. "That gift, his son, is far too wonderful for any words."
Following Kincannon's blessing of a group of symbolic gifts, recipients began collecting their personalized items which were gift wrapped and bagged. As Derby said, some will receive as many as three bags depending on the items requested and the size of the family.
Each year this event personifies not only the name of the church but also the Christmas spirit for both givers and receivers. It was summarized very simply and eloquently by one of those receivers. "I am so happy and grateful," said Ponzella Massy.
Rising Hope will hold a Christmas Eve candlelight service at 7 p.m. Dec. 24. It will also serve Christmas dinner Dec. 25 from noon to 3 p.m. for "all who have no where else to enjoy dinner that day," Kincannon announced. The church is located at 8220 Russell Road, just off Route 1.