By Rev. Patrick Rogers, MDiv.
Christmas isn’t a day, it’s not a holiday, it’s a “lifestyle” that we can choose!
We are so often surrounded by stress. Challenges regarding jobs, relationships, friendships, finances, health, housing, theology, politics, and social justice issues, the list can seem endless. Overwhelming is an understatement!
But then, there is the good! As the pastor of United Church of Christ Fort Lauderdale, our church has an outreach called Ruth Ministry. Over 8,000 meals are served a year plus clothing, shoes, toiletries, referrals for jobs, housing, and more, all served with side dishes of love and compassion.
When I search for hope, I look around me! I see hope in the love that exists in our community and beyond. Just today, Fritz and Mark from Smarty Pants bar donated and delivered ten 20lb turkeys for our Thanksgiving holiday meal that is fast approaching. The Thanksgiving turkeys, together with the appropriate side dishes, will be lovingly prepared by our Ruth Ministry kitchen volunteers!
I see a community supporting Ruth Ministry. The clothing distributed yearly amounts to over 5,000 shirts, 3,600 pairs of shoes, pants, socks, underwear, and more. Where does all this come from? It comes from the heart of a community who cares about those in need. The love comes from individuals, families, fundraisers, nonprofit and for-profit organizations, people who work for the businesses near the church from both Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors that are aware of this program, and God’s numerous loving and giving ways.
Every Christmas season, Ruth Ministry distributes empty Christmas stockings to individuals, families, and companies who volunteer, in return, to fill them with Christmas presents and Christmas presence. Each stocking contains some basic toiletries, candy, a couple of small presents, love, and joy! Come Christmas, they are given out by Santa and Santa’s helpers to many who would otherwise receive nothing.
Our Christmas meal is prepared and served by volunteers coming from Temple Adath Or and our regular volunteers help put it all together. The food for that meal is prepared by their chef and his helpers.
The presents and presence that are given from this place daily are done so out of love that doesn’t judge nor have condition. This holiday party lasts all year long and it is one where all are welcome. And as we sing the words as the confetti drops on Sunday nights at Hunters, “Love is in the air.”
Rev. Patrick Rogers, MDiv. – Community Activist and Senior Pastor at
United Church of Christ Fort Lauderdale.