Saturday, Dec. 14

Shabbat-in-Service:

'Conversing with Our History'

BENNINGTON -- Join Congregation Beth El on Dec. 14, from 12:30 to 3 p.m., for the next Shabbat-in-Service program: "Conversing with Our History." We will be learning about the importance of preserving communal knowledge, particularly through the care of sacred and secular texts. We'll explore the challenges of passing information from generation to generation, and add our voices to a historic conversation. Following services and kiddush, participants will choose from two options. Rabbi Jarah Greenfield will lead a text study and discussion for adults and teens. Rabbinic Intern Jake Adler will lead families in interactive study and activity at the library of Mount Anthony Union High School with Beth El member Berta Winiker. Reminder: This is a required Family Education Program for Judaism School families.

Christmas Tea

BENNINGTON -- From 3 to 5:30 p.m. the parish hall at St. Peter's Episcopal Church will be turned into a candlelit, sparkling room that will get you ready for Christmas. This will be the 73rd year for St. Peter's Tea. A long, decorated tea table covered with tiny cookies and tea sandwiches to accompany tea, coffee, and punch.

Servers are there to help you with your cups and serve you more treats. The Christmas Shoppe will be open for your shopping pleasure. There will be small gifts,, ornaments and goodies for sale. Tickets for the tea are $6 each. Tickets can be purchased at the door or the church office from Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. St. Peter's is accessible to everyone.

Sunday, Dec. 15

Lessons and Carols at Old First Church

OLD BENNINGTON -- The Candlelight Service of Lessons and Carols at the First Congregational Church, Monument Avenue at Route 9 in Old Bennington, will be held on Sunday at 7 p. m. This long-standing Bennington tradition in "Vermont's Colonial Shrine" will feature the singing of the Bennington Children's Chorus; the church organist, Charles Olegar; soloist Kerry Ryer-Parke; musicians Yoshiko Sato, Nathaniel Parke, Melanie Dexter and Judy Ensign; carol singing by the congregation; Scripture readings by members of the congregation and a brief sermon by the Rev. Kenneth A. Clarke.

Those who are able to walk a bit are asked to leave parking immediately in front of the church for others. A freewill offering will be taken with proceeds going to the Interfaith Council's Emergency Food and Fuel Fund. A wheelchair ramp will be provided. The public is warmly invited.

Worship at Second Congregational Church

BENNINGTON -- As the season of Advent progresses, we invite all people of faith or in search of faith to join us at Second Congregational Church for worship at 10 a.m. Sunday morning. We light the third Advent candle, the Candle of Joy, and in joyful anticipation, celebrate Jesus' Birthday with a pageant "The Little Drummer Boy" and a sandwich luncheon party following in Webster Hall. Nursery care is provided throughout worship.

During the birthday party, Heifer Project Alternative Giving opportunities will be available. Giving Tree Gifts are due back this week.

Second Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, welcomes all people without regard to age, race, sex, economic condition, disability, or sexual orientation. Its building on Hillside Street is wheelchair-accessible, and hearing-assistance devices are available. For more information, call the church office at 442-2559 or visit www.bennscc.org.

Worship in North Bennington

NORTH BENNINGTON -- The North Bennington Congregational Church welcomes all to its 11 a.m. worship service led by the Rev. Penny Rich Smith on this third Sunday of Advent. The sermon, "God's Advent of Everlasting Joy," will be based on Isaiah 35:1-10 and Matthew 11:2-11. Those present will light the third Advent Candle. There will be a children's time, after which Sunday School classses will meet for pre-school through grade 8.

Following the service, everyone is invited to stay for coffee hour and a time of fellowship. The church is located at 8 Bank Street in North Bennington and is wheelchair accessible from the back door at the parsonage driveway. For more information, call the church office at 442-5161.

'Beyond Words to Joy' at the Federated Church

EAST ARLINGTON -- This third week of Advent we will light the pink candle of joy and invite all people of faith or in search of faith to join in the service of worship at 10 a.m. at the Federated Church of East Arlington on Ice Pond Road.

Once the Advent wreath is lit, we will turn our attention to the great joy of Mary found in the words of the Magnificat from Luke 1:46b-55 as well as the joy we hear expressed in Isaiah 35:1-10 and Psalm 146. The choir will be led by Music Director Mary Edwards. All children 3 to 10 are invited to begin worship in the sanctuary and then move into Bailey Hall as preparations for the Dec. 22 pageant continue. Following worship there will be coffee hour in Bailey Hall followed by pizza before we head out for Christmas caroling, leaving from Bailey Hall at noon.Anyone from the community who enjoys singing is invited to join in the caroling.

The Men's Fellowship will meet for its monthly breakfast at 8 a.m. on Sunday. All men are welcome to be a part of the discussion and enjoy a delicious meal. Wrapped baby items such as diapers, pacifiers, bibs and onesies are being gathered under the Christmas tree in the sanctuary between now and Christmas Eve for Jesus' Baby Shower to support the important work of parents through Sunrise Family Resource Center. Also, notify the church office at 375-2548 by Dec. 20 if you wish to bring a poinsettia and/or make a gift that will be matched by the church's mission fund for Typhoon Haiyan relief through Church World Service.

Senior meals are served on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon in Bailey Hall. The Federated Church of East Arlington is a local church in covenant and connection with the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church. Its mission is "To welcome all, follow Jesus Christ together, and live God's Word with compassionate service." For additional information, visit www.federatedchurchofeastarlington.org or like the church on Facebook.

Christmas Concert
at Petersburgh Baptist Church

PETERSBURGH, N.Y. -- On Sunday at 6 p.m., come celebrate the season of hope with a joyful concert of Christmas music.

Under the inspired direction of Karen Webster, a multi-faith choir will perform a program of Christmas songs, both traditional and contemporary. Instrumentalists Leslie Green, Josh Greenberg, Dan LaMontaigne, Linda Morrison, Matina Patsos and Martha Von Schilgen will accompany the singers on everything from the saxophone and oboe to the violin and djembe drum.

Desserts and refreshments will be served after the concert. The concert and refreshments are free of charge, and all are welcome. Bring along friends and family as we rejoice in the true reason for the season.

The Petersburgh Baptist Church is located at the junction of Routes 2 and 22. For more information, call 518-658-3834. The concert will be presented again on Sunday, Dec. 22, at 6 p.m.

All Saints Church Jesse Tree service

HOOSICK, N.Y. -- On Sunday at 9:30 a.m., the congregation at All Saints Church in Hoosick will decorate its "Jesse Tree" which represents the genealogy, or family tree, of Jesus. Readings from the Old and New Testaments describing the prophecy of Christ's birth and God's plan for our salvation will be read by teens from the All Saints Youth Ministry. Each reading is represented by a symbolic ornament that will be placed on a Christmas tree by one of the younger parish children.

The Jesse Tree ceremony will take place in lieu of the homily at the regular 9:30 a.m. Eucharist Service. The ceremony is specifically geared towards children, and all are warmly welcomed to attend. Light refreshments will follow the service.

All Saints Church is located at 4935 Route 7, just east of Curtis Lumber. Visit www.allsaintshoosick.org

Service of Lessons and Carols

for Gaudete Sunday

BENNINGTON --The choir of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Church warmly invites all to an Advent Service of Lessons and Carols for Gaudete Sunday on Dec. 15, at 5 p.m. in the church at 238 West Main St. Old Testament Scripture will be interspersed with Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and 20th century carols and motets. Gaudete Sunday is a time of rejoicing for Christians who await the coming of the savior during the church's liturgical season of Advent. All facilities of the church are accessible to those with disabilities, and convenient on-site parking is available.

Community Service of Remembrance

BENNINGTON -- The twenty-fifth annual Community Service of Remembrance, sponsored by Hanson-Walbridge & Shea Funeral Homes and VNA & Hospice of SVHC, will be held Sunday, beginning at 2 p.m., at Mount Anthony Union High School, 301 Park St.

The interfaith service honors the memory of loved ones in our community and includes candle lighting and placing of doves on the memory tree by friends and family members in attendance. There is no cost to attend the service or to have a dove placed on the tree in memory of a loved one. All attending are invited to join us immediately following the remembrance service for a time of fellowship and refreshment.

Support, ideas and suggestions will be provided, as well as laughter and refreshments. For more information, call Shea Family Funeral Homes at 802-442-4329 or VNA & Hospice at 802-442-5502.

Worship and events at St. Peter's

BENNINGTON -- The Rev. Justin Lanier will preside as celebrant of the Holy Eucharist using the Book of Common Prayer on this third Sunday of Advent at St. Peter's Episcopal Church. The 8 a.m. Holy Eucharist is celebrated at the high altar without music in the traditional language of Rite I. At 10 a.m. the Holy Eucharist will be celebrated with singing and music at the free-standing altar using Rite II, the contemporary language service. The Gospel for this day is Matthew 11:2-11. The laying on of hands for healing follows the service.

Contemplative prayer will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 18, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. On Thursday, Dec. 19, Lanier will celebrate the Holy Eucharist at 10 a.m. All are welcome.

The Vestry will hold its monthly meeting this Saturday after the 10 a.m. service.

On Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, the Christmas Pageant and Holy Eucharist is scheduled for 5 p.m. Children are invited to participate in this unrehearsed story of the Nativity. Notify Lanier if you or anyone you know are interested in participating or assisting with the direction of the program. Holy Eucharist will also be celebrated at 11 p.m. On Christmas Day, Dec. 25, the Holy Eucharist will be celebrated at 9 a.m. Lanier will also celebrate the Holy Eucharist at Emeritus at Fillmore Pond. The Christmas liturgy will begin at 3 p.m.

On Jan. 12, at the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, there will be one Eucharistic service with a baptism at 9 a.m.

Note that the annual meeting will be held on Sunday, Jan. 26. There will be two services at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., with the annual meeting following the 10 a.m. service. It is hoped that as many congregants as possible will attend the annual meeting and the luncheon that will be served.

St. Peter's invites people of all faiths or those in search of faith to join them in their service of Christ and of each other. The facility is wheelchair accessible. For more information, visit www.stpetersvt.org or call 802-442-2911.

Upcoming

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

in North Bennington

NORTH BENNINGTON -- The North Bennington Congregational Church celebrates Christmas Eve with a Candlelight Service at 5 p.m. that evening. Dec. 24. There will be lessons and carols, special music, the lighting of the Christ Candle, a Christmas story, and a closing candlelight circle with the singing of "Silent Night." All are welcome. The church is wheelchair accessible.

Christmas Eve service
at Missionary Alliance Church

BENNINGTON -- Missionary Alliance Church on Crescent Boulevard will celebrate Christmas Eve on Tuesday, Dec. 24, at 7 p.m. with a candlelight service. A Christmas message and carols will emphasize the true meaning of Christmas: the birth of Jesus Christ. For more information, contact the church at 802-442-6840.

Christmas Eve at Old First Church

OLD BENNINGTON -- On Monday, Dec. 24, the First Congregational Church of Old Bennington will offer a candlelight Christmas Eve service at 5 p. m. with special music beginning at 4:40. This family service will be filled with familiar carols and readings and will feature Bennington's own Katie Beck as the vocal soloist, the Old First Choir and Gallery Chamber Orchestra. The service concludes with the congregation singing "Silent Night" with lighted candles in front of the church. A wheelchair ramp will be provided. The public is warmly invited.

Christmas Eve at First Baptist

BENNINGTON -- The First Baptist Church of Benningtonwill hold its Christmas Eve service on Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 7 p.m.

The service will feature familiar Christmas carols and Scripture readings accompanying the church's gradual lighting of the Advent candles and preparation to light the Christ candle at the service's culmination. The church's interim minister, the Rev. Thomas Hiltsley, will preside over the service.

Accompanying the service music will be Mo Rancourt, guest trumpeter, and Charles Olegar, the church's organist and director of music.

The First Baptist Church is an American Baptist congregation and gathers weekly for worship at 9:30 a.m. Sunday mornings. For more information, visit www.fbcbennington.org or call 802-442-2105.

Announcements

Introduction to Judaism class

BENNINGTON -- A 10-week Introduction to Judaism class, taught by Rabbi Jarah Greenfield, rabbi at Congregation Beth El, will expose participants to the breadth and depth of Judaism and engage with core ideas, debates, and concerns of the Jewish people. Participants will gain knowledge and skills that will help them participate in Jewish life and build a personal Jewish practice if they choose. The class in geared toward this without prior Jewish learning, whatever Jewish, non-Jewish, or considering conversation to Judaism. There is no fee for the course but book purchase is required. To sign up, call 802-442-9645 or email rabbijgreenfield@gmail.com

Course Dates & Schedule: Tuesdays 12:30-1:45 p.m.; Dec. 17, Jan. 7, Jan. 14, Jan. 21, Jan. 28, Feb. 4, Feb 11, Feb. 18, Feb 25.

Miniature Nativity scenes at St. James

ARLINGTON -- St. James' Episcopal Church has announced the 2013 exhibition of "Los Nacimientos," a display of more than 50 Nativity scenes reflecting the art and culture of Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Peru, Ecuador, Canada (Inuit and Anglo), England, Italy, China, Portugal, Germany, Poland, the United States and even the Vatican. The Nativities are made from papier maché, ceramic, straw, bamboo, stained glass and many other interesting materials. This is the only exhibition of its kind in Bennington County. Everyone is invited to visit and enjoy this exhibition.

The objects on exhibit are drawn from the private collection of a parishioner, Roger Cooper. The Spanish word "nacimiento" means "the birth place" or a nativity scene. In Cooper's country of birth, Mexico, a nacimiento takes precedence over the Christmas tree and becomes the centerpiece of the home during the Christmas season. As Cooper traveled the world for his work, this Christmas tradition stayed with him. He began collecting examples of Nativity scenes on his trips. Over the course of more than 30 years, he accumulated more than 150 different examples of the genre.

Throughout the centuries, artists have created Nativity sets in materials and with figures that reflect their own cultures and times. Scenes of the Nativity are known from the very earliest Christian times. They appear in third and fourth century Christian catacombs of Rome as wall paintings and on sarcophagi. It was not until 1223, however, when St. Francis of Assisi organized a Nativity using live animals in Greccio, Italy, that the understanding and appreciation of that special scene took root and grew. The custom of making Nativity scenes spread from Italy to France and to Spain, and then to other parts of the world, following the spread of Christianity through exploration and colonization. The custom arrived in the New World with the conquistadores and the friars in the 16th century.

Each of the Nativity scenes on exhibit at St. James reflects the ethnicity of the culture that produced it. Included are examples from Mexico, Spain, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Canada, Israel, Germany, Poland, Russia and the United States, including two examples from Vermont. Nativities are made from wood, papier maché, ceramic, straw, bamboo, stained glass and many other interesting materials. One of the most unusual scenes is made of tongue depressors and clothespins.

The detail in each miniature scene is extraordinary.

St. James' Episcopal Church is grateful to Roger Cooper for sharing his beautiful and interesting collection with us and reminding us of the variety of artistic endeavor that celebrates the miracle of the birth of Jesus.

During the Christmas season, St. James' Church is decorated beautifully with the traditional greens and blooms of the holiday. On the sill of each of the tall stained glass windows is a lighted exhibit case containing a selection of the miniature scenes. "Los Nacimientos" are available for public viewing during the Christmas season as follows: Sundays - before and after the 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. worship services.

Help GMCC brighten Christmas

for a local family

BENNINGTON -- Green Mountain Christian Center announces the sixth annual Green Mountain Christmas on Dec. 20 and 21 at the Christian Center (GMCC), 440 Main St.

Donations can be mailed or delivered to Green Mountain Christian Center, 440 Main St. Bennington. The office is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on Monday and Thursday 9 a.m. to noon. Parents in need should call the Green Mountain Christian Center office at 802-447-7224 for a reservation before Dec. 21.