The giving movement is spreading to other cities.
(Houston, TX)—Since 2010, Houston area churches and Christian organizations have provided an alternative to frenzied Christmas shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. Continuing this tradition, Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church (MDPC), Beacon of Light Christian Center, St. Luke's United Methodist Church, St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, are each scheduling community service projects on Friday, November 23. These churches ask families and individuals to celebrate Bless Friday® as an alternative to Black Friday. This year for the first time groups of Christians in Austin, Texas will join in Bless Friday activities. They plan to package food for use by the needy. Other Houstonians are also taking the new tradition with them as they travel and are serving Christ at organizations such as Star of the Sea Outreach Mission food bank in Key West, Florida.
Chuck Fox, founder of Bless Friday, states, "I am excited that Bless Friday expanded geographically in its third year. People get our message that when we focus too much on buying things, we lose sight of the real reason for Christmas—remembering and honoring Christ. We want to begin our Christmas celebration by serving others just as Jesus did."
Dave Peterson, Sr. Pastor at MDPC states, "We want people to reconnect to the real reason we celebrate Christmas. I am especially gratified when children are involved. It changes how they view the season." MDPC congregants are volunteering at local ministry partners (Star of Hope, SEARCH, East Spring Branch Food Pantry, Gracewood and The Amazing Place), or participating in a service project they can do at home with family and friends.
Beacon of Light Christian Center plans to serve the community surrounding its church, located in south Houston. Pastor Anthony Gasery states, "This year we are offering fruit bags to needy families throughout the community. Our members will assist with filling the bags and then we will walk the neighborhood going house to house, passing out the fruit bags. Last year we passed out over 150 bags of fresh produce (bananas, oranges, apples, and peanuts) and this year our desire is to serve at least 200 families. Our community is filled with people who financially overextend themselves at Christmas. We want to show them a more positive and more spiritual way to celebrate."
At St Luke's Gethsemane campus, United Methodist Women - Servants of Christ will invite neighbors and friends to join their congregation as they hand out care bags in neighborhoods surrounding the church and near their homes. "The bags symbolize thanksgiving for God's abundance, and our desire to share with our community and welcome them into our church home" says Mireya Ottaviano, local pastor.
St. John the Divine will send one group to The Beacon to serve food to the homeless and help with laundry and other practical needs. Another group will go to Agape Development to work on improving the physical condition of the residences and community center.