Avondale United Church members doing a little last-minute Christmas Eve shopping at the Tillsonburg Town Centre Mall.
Their mission for mission is not in search of late purchases, rather ‘shopping’ for community participants for Avondale’s annual candlelight Christmas Eve service.
Avondale United already does both local (food bank, school breakfast programs, S.A.F.E. group, cooperation with The Salvation Army) and international outreach (Sunday School mission projects to provide fresh water by having wells dug for families in Nicaragua (last year) and sponsoring girls in Mozambique to go to school (this year).
The ‘mall crawl’ effort comes as the result of a workshop attended by Avondale members, in which the facilitator challenged participants to escape the four walls of their churches, and get out and become involved in the community in order to spread goodwill.
Avondale’s community outreach campaign opened Monday evening at 7 p.m., with members stationed at each of the mall’s three main entrances handing out invitations stapled to single-serving packets of hot chocolate. Volunteers wore shirts with the motto ‘On a mission for mission,’ courtesy of one of the event’s organizers, Tamara Bull.
“We opened with a bang,” said Bull, noting 300 of the effort’s total 500 invitation/hot chocolate combinations (100 per entrance) were passed out in 15 minutes, an exercise which she said elicited ‘lots of great feedback.
“People were excited to see someone ‘handing out,’ this time of year instead of taking in. We had several people offer donations but we told them our purpose was to 'give' tonight. Some people also said they were looking for a place to go Christmas Eve and now they know where they can go.”
The Avondale candlelight Christmas Eve service is very much an informal dress, ‘come as you are,’ event Bull emphasized. It is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and will feature a Christmas message, carols and communion open to all attendees.