Belfast church wants to ‘restore’ meaning of Christmas

Posted Dec. 06, 2009, at 9:15 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — The United Methodist Church is urging consumers to focus on compassion this Advent season by spending less, giving more, worshipping fully and loving all.

The church has partnered with Advent Conspiracy, an Oregon-based ministry, to give people an alternative to hectic shopping days and deeper debt, the Rev. David Abbott, pastor of the Belfast church at 23 Mill St., recently announced.

“I’ve seen the YouTube video and received information on the Advent Conspiracy over the last couple of years,” Abbott said in a press release. “This year, with the economy slumping, folks struggling to find work in the local area, and the real, and perceived, stress of trying to find the right gift for everyone, we decided to offer an alternative to the message of consumption in this season of love and community.

“Instead of spending more money, we are being challenged to give more,” the minister continued. “It may sound strange, but each of us has so much that we can give.”

Abbott suggested that instead of giving gifts, people choose to give their time to a person who will have few or no visitors this holiday season, make a donation for clean water in Africa in the name of someone who already has everything, or create a simple present made with love instead of at a factory.

Imago Dei, a church in Portland, Ore., founded the Advent Conspiracy movement three years ago with four other churches. The Rev. Ken Weigel, one of the ministers at Imago, last month told an Oregon newspaper that he expected 2,000 churches from around the world to join the movement this year.

Since 2006, Advent Conspiracy has increased its e-mail list to 8,000 addresses, increased its following on Facebook to more than 40,000 and posted a YouTube video, according to information on its Web site.

The majority of the money raised by the group is donated to Living Water International, which helps get clean water to people around the world. Last year, the conspiracy raised $3 million for relief projects, according to information on its Web site. The money helped drill wells in Liberia, India, Peru and The Sudan.

“We believe that as more and more people, within and beyond our congregation, participate, we can change the world,” Abbott said of the project. “The truth is that it is not just about saving money or about this economy but rather remembering that when we give presence instead of presents, the meaning of Christmas has been restored.”

For information on the Advent Conspiracy, visit www.AdventConspiracy.org.

For information about the Belfast United Methodist Church, call 338-5575 or visit www.belfastumc.org.

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