Blessed to gather together
There are many people in our city who will be celebrating Christmas this year without setting foot in a church. It's sad, because our city is filled with wonderful churches that yearn to share the real "Reason for the Season" amid our over-commercialized Christmas traditions.
A 2009 study by the Pew Research center shows New Hampshire is tied with Vermont as the least religious state. But I have to think that statistic is changing. My own church, Manchester Christian Church, has literally thousands of people attending service every Sunday. Our first campus on Wellington Road (yeah, the one with a weird logo that kind of looks like a UFO) has become too small for us all. So in September we opened a second campus in Bedford followed by a third campus in the Waumbec Mill yesterday, just in time for Christmas services.
Each MCC campus has its own talented band and then we all hear the same message from Senior Pastor Bo Chancey. At the Wellington Road campus he is live and at the other campuses the message is simulcast on a life-size screen.
Chances are, if you live in Greater Manchester, you know someone who attends MCC. I've seen friends from high school, former co-workers and countless people I know from the community. You may also have seen some of the work the church is doing in our community.
Outreach Coordinator Lisa Mazur and an army of volunteers have organized collections of food, clothing and personal care items as well as community festivals and meals for our neighbors in need. One group serves a hot breakfast to the homeless every Saturday and Sunday morning. After more than a year serving it outdoors in Veterans Park, they have recently partnered with the Salvation Army to begin serving in its Cedar Street cafeteria.
Why are so many people attending MCC? Some might say it's the coffee you can enjoy during the service. While that is an obvious perk (pun intended) most will say it is because it has challenged their preconceived notions of what church should be and given them a new understanding of what it means to have a relationship with God.
Chancey's messages are understandable, relatable, and very entertaining. I have seen him pelt his audience with candy, swing on a trapeze in a leotard, dance (badly) and sing (worse). He always makes us laugh and sometimes makes us cry.
Honestly, I don't know how anyone handled the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn., without having a church community to lean on. By coming together it was easier to try to make sense of that senseless act and be reminded that there is still hope in this world.
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6.
Today is Christmas Eve and if you don't have a church to go to I invite you to MCC. Services are scheduled at all three locations. For more information visit www.manchesterchristian.com.
Warm up at the hut
As tempting as it is to sit around the house the day after Christmas, the city is giving us an enticing reason to get outside. Thanks to Alderman Joyce Craig for letting me know about the opening of the warming hut at Dorr's Pond on Wednesday. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. visitors to the park can step in from the cold air and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa provided by the Puritan. Of course there's no ice to skate, but there is plenty of other outdoor recreation that can be enjoyed around the pond, including walking or running on the trail, playing some soccer at adjacent Livingston Park field or just enjoying the playground.
Craig said this is the first time in five years the warming hut has been open to the public in winter. Weather permitting, the hut will also be open Martin Luther King Day on Monday, Jan. 21, as well as during February school vacation, Feb. 25th through March 1st. Hopefully, by then it will be cold enough to skate!
Visiting the Verizon
I have started taking the Verizon Wireless Arena for granted. Before the arena opened more than a decade ago I never dreamed our city could attract some of the bands that have made their way to the Queen City. Last Wednesday I saw Dave Matthews perform. I didn't have to drive more than an hour, site in traffic, and pay exorbitant parking fees like I would have if the concert were in Boston. I saw the band five minutes from my house. It's crazy to think about.
The arena is still looking great in its double-digit years. The bathrooms were clean, staff was friendly and service was quick.
The only thing different than the first concert I attended there was the sea of cell phone screens out in the audience, being used for videos, pictures and in place of the traditional lighter people sometimes hold up at concerts. I'm sure people still had lighters too. But, judging from the unmistakable scent in the air, they were using those for a different purpose.
If you have not been to the arena in a while then get over the Verizon Wireless Arena this Wednesday for the Monarchs' Cabin Fever Night. I'm sure the hockey against the Worcester Sharks will be great, but the real draw for my 5-year-old is the ZOOperstars. This group of inflatable characters that are abnormally clumsy were featured on America's Got Talent a few years back and they are really entertaining.
The ZOOperstars will be performing during the 7 p.m. Monarchs Game.
The Monarchs also host their annual New Years Eve game next Monday at 7 p.m.. It's a fun way to ring in the new year and after the game stick around for New England's largest indoor fireworks display.
Visit www.ManchesterMonarchs.com for more information about these games.
NH365.ORG event of week
Another "America's Got Talent" favorite, New Hampshire's own Recycled Percussion, is performing three shows at the Palace Theatre next weekend. You can see this unbelievable band on Sunday. The all-new show carries on its brand of making music with discarded industrial junk, power tools and a barrage of buckets and metal cans.
Performance are scheduled for Sunday at 3 and 7 p.m. and New Year's Eve Monday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $29. Visit www.NH365.org for more information about this and other entertainment options in our area.