After church: How clergy spend Christmas

A busy Advent done, it’s time for family
Dec. 25, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

It’s Christmas Day. You’re home from morning Mass. Or you went to church for candlelight or family services on Christmas Eve. Time to unwrap presents, eat, spend time with friends and family and enjoy the festivities.
What are your clergy doing? They’ve been working overtime this Advent, surely, with many extra services and spiritual events to plan, attend and lead. Where do they go after church?
Fr. Bill McIntyre, a priest at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, will have spent today celebrating two Masses – one in English and one in Spanish, not counting the very first Mass of the day, which began at midnight. Advent at Immaculate Conception is longer than usual, he said, because of the significant Latino population and more observances, like Las Posadas and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
After Mass is done for the day around 2 p.m., McIntyre will make a few sick calls to ill parishioners, and then he and fellow priest and Franciscan friar Fr. Larry Hayes will make dinner or pick it up from Whole Foods. As Franciscans, they live in a rectory and have a brotherhood and common life. McIntyre doesn’t lack for invitations to parishioners’ homes at the holidays, but he generally doesn’t go because he doesn’t want to create favoritism and choose one invitation over another. All people are important, he said.
On Wednesday, McIntyre will fly to his hometown of Hyde Park, N.Y., for a week-long visit with his siblings, nieces and nephews. Hayes will cover for him, then McIntyre will return to cover for Hayes’ time off. Catholic priests serving in the South often live far from their families, he said.
The Rev. Carla Gregg’s working Advent concludes with the Christmas Eve service at Pilgrim United Church of Christ, where she is minister of Christian education. The church has dinner together before the traditional Christmas Eve service of lessons and carols. Then, the family car already packed, Gregg, her spouse, Lindsey Kearns, and their daughter Mia, 3, will head to Charlotte, where Gregg’s parents will be waiting. On the way, they’ll listen to an old Amy Grant Christmas CD and snack on a tin of cookies a friend gives every year. Upon arrival, everyone gets new Christmas gift pajamas and they wake up Christmas morning at Gregg’s parents’ house.
The Rev. Michael Page, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, and his wife, Deborah, finish their Christmas gift exchanges by the time the holiday arrives. Rather than giving each other presents on Christmas Day, they do a Twelve Days of Christmas exchange, with trinkets and little gifts like a Starbucks card each day leading up to Dec. 25.
Most of their Christmas Day is spent at church providing a community meal for neighbors in North-East Central Durham. It started 10 years ago for homeless people and is now for everyone who wants to come eat dinner from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and receive donations of coats and toiletries.
After the day at Antioch, where they also eat Christmas dinner, “we go home and can’t move. We reflect and celebrate where we are,” Page said.