A Community Christmas

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“Ugliest Christmas Sweater” contenders at the Feast of Love – Community Christmas Dinner, Dec. 25, 2017, at First Methodist Church in Chestertown            Photo by Jane Jewell

It’s early Christmas morning in Chestertown.  While many children are still opening gifts, volunteers begin to arrive in the kitchen of the First United Methodist Church on the corner of High and Mill streets.  The annual “Feast of Love” begins in just a few hours!  Donated food from the Fish Whistle Restaurant and the Lapp Family Bakeries is already on the shelves and in the church’s big fridge.  Turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, and a variety of desserts are on the menu.  The doors open at 1:00 pm!  But there’s a lot of work to do before then, though much prep work had been done in the preceding days.   There’s tables to set up – with real plates and silverware, paper, plus styrofoam for the 100-plus to-go boxes that will be taken home to those who couldn’t attend.

Volunteers and staff for in the kitchen at the First United Church in Chestertown         Photo by Bill Arrowood

Volunteers and staff for the 2017 “Feast of Love”      Photo by Bill Arrowood

All in all, nearly fifty volunteers pitched in both before Christmas and on the day itself to make the dinner possible. The set-up and decoration crew, including Sue Dorsey and Judy Connelly, were there by 9 a.m. The turkey carvers, who included Emerson Cotton, Tom Bowman, and Jack Dorsey, also came at 9.  The dishwasher volunteers started arriving at 11.  They jumped right in as there were pots, pans, and dishes to wash pretty much straight through the day.

When the doors finally opened at 1 p.m, there was a long line.   The Feast of Love is open to all, with no charge.  The crowd was a diverse one – all ages and races.  And not just members of the First Methodist Church. This was the first time, Yvonne Arrowood, said, that they had to set up extra tables.  It was, in fact, the largest Feast of Love ever, with over 200 in attendance. The hall was quickly filled with conversation and laughter – and singing.  One church group led the crowd in singing all the traditional songs plus popular favorites as “Amazing Grace.”

Rev. May Etta Moore was both one of the oldest in attendance (0ver 90) and one who had attended the most times (more than 20).

During announcements, Bill Arrowood queried attendees to discover that the two oldest people there were over 90, the youngest two were three and four years old.  Most were from Kent County, but several had come from more than 50 miles away and one had traveled over 100 miles to celebrate Christmas in Chestertown!

The Feast of Love was first held at the Methodist Church in 1984 with Yvonne Arrowood as one of the driving forces.  Today, over three decades later, Yvonne is still here, organizing, cooking, and cleaning up.  Her son Bill Arrowood also helps organize each year.  There have been a few years when the feast was not held, but the annual event was revitalized about ten years when the Rev. Rick Vance was the pastor and has continued, growing each year, under current pastor David Ryan.  It is a wonderful community event with a wonderful Christmas spirit.

 

Photo Gallery by Bill Arrowood and Jane Jewell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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