BELFAST, Maine — In what members hope will be an annual tradition, the Belfast United Methodist Church opened its doors Friday afternoon and offered the community a free Christmas dinner.
Volunteers began working on the Christmas meal on Wednesday. By Friday morning the church hall was decorated for the festivities, and the smell of 10 turkeys, 100 pounds of Maine potatoes and pots of vegetables filled the room. There were dozens of fresh-baked rolls. For dessert there were homemade cakes, cookies, and apple, pecan, mincemeat, pumpkin and chocolate cream pies.
“I have a really, really great team,” organizer Susan Barnard said as church members sang Christmas music to the accompaniment of a piano and guitar. “It’s unbelievable how much everyone pitched in.”
Barnard, of Northport, said she got the idea for offering the community a free Christmas dinner while driving to work. The church holds public suppers throughout the year, but this was the first time she decided to whip up a Christmas dinner.
“It just popped into my head one day. ‘You need a Christmas dinner at church.’ The whole congregation stood up behind us and said, ‘What a wonderful idea,’” Barnard said.
Barnard’s husband, Walter, dressed as Santa Claus, sat next to the musicians and welcomed a steady stream of people onto his lap for hugs and photographs. He even got a big kiss from his mother.
“There are a lot of us not with our families or missing family members this year, and it gives them an opportunity … to join with other people on Christmas,” Barnard said. “It’s amazing how many people have embraced the idea. People who never knew each other are sitting together today talking and enjoying themselves. I’m happy to see that there are people who we don’t often see here who have also decided to join us.”
Searsport resident Pat Small came with friends Faith and Hattie Gibbs. A member of the church, Small said the dinner was perfect for people like her who live alone and would never consider cooking a meal like a turkey dinner for themselves.
“I live alone. If I have to cook, I’ll be eating for more than a week,” she said. “Besides, I really like the people here. This church is so welcoming.”