Antioch Builds Community to serve Christmas dinner

Dec. 19, 2012 @ 02:59 PM

While many churches close their doors after Christmas Eve services, Antioch Baptist Church will be open on Christmas Day and host a free Christmas dinner for the community from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday. The church at 1415 Holloway St. in Durham started serving a Christmas meal to homeless people in the neighborhood about 10 years ago, said the Rev. Michael Page, pastor of Antioch, and expanded it to anyone in the community who wants to come. They will also give away toiletries and coats.
The dinner is sponsored by Antioch Builds Community, a nonprofit of Antioch Baptist and other faith partners. The Congregation at Duke Chapel, Chapel Hill Bible Church, Emmaus Way in Durham and Congregation Sha’arei Shalom in Cary will also help out on Christmas.
Antioch Baptist is located in a high poverty and crime area of North-East Central Durham, and some residents have criminal records. That spurred Page to address the needs of the church’s neighbors. Whenever he parked and got out of his car at the church, someone would come up to him and ask to borrow a dollar. It happened again and again, and he ran out of dollars. That led to questions and answers of why they needed money – because they didn’t have a job, and they didn’t have a job because they had a criminal record, he said. Page shared the origin of Antioch Builds Community at Durham Congregations in Action’s meeting on Tuesday at Pilgrim United Church of Christ.
He said that at first he was afraid of working with people who had been in prison. Page said he tries not to use the word “ex-offenders,” rather prefers to say “people with criminal records.”
“People don’t want to sit next to these folks in church, so what do we do?” Page said. So he asked himself, “What does heaven look like?”
Antioch Builds Community began by working with children of people who were incarcerated, he said, and then the parents, too, who they found were not harmful. ABC took on the problems of housing, jobs and support services, tackling housing first. They fixed up a house on Hyde Park Avenue, which they use to provide housing for men coming out of the criminal justice system who want a second chance at life. This past year, Antioch hosted a summit on re-entry, and also have gone door to door talking to businesses about employment.
The Christmas Day meal is really just about love, Page said, asking people, “Can we help you?”
Having community partners, he said, is really what the Christian walk is about – “coming together to do what needs to be done.”
Volunteers will also provide transportation to and from the Christmas dinner. For transportation, call 919-949-4022.