It’s all about blessings and the Christmas story at United Church of Christ-affiliated Cape Albeon Senior Community in Valley Park, Mo.
Each year, Chaplain Le Remington holds a service in the dining hall that features a narrator to assist with the storytelling and a tenor soloist to provide music.
“The service begins with scripture readings highlighting the main characters of the Christmas story, and interpretations about the passages,” says Remington, whose biblical storytelling often includes taking Bible stories or characters and “reading between the lines” to bring them to life. “In between each reading, the soloist sings an appropriate Christmas carol or hymn. There are about 10 readings, songs and interpretations — a sort-of modern-day ‘Lessons and Carols.’”
Following the lessons and carols portion, employees take baskets filled with blessing-wrapped candles to each table in the dimly-lit hall. Each resident takes a candle, unwraps it to keep the blessing, and puts the candle back into the basket. The candles are then returned to the front of the hall, where a huge container of sand sits.
“The employees light the candles — 175-200 usually — and place them in the sand,” says Remington. “In candlelight, everyone reflects on the beauty of the light — the symbol of Christ’s light in the world — and then sings ‘Silent Night’ a cappella.”
Following the service, the main lights are turned back on, and everyone shares in a “magnificent feast,” Remington says.
In advance of the service, Remington writes blessings on scraps of cloth and the residents help her wrap them around the candles. They wrap enough so that, in the days following the service, every employee of Cape Albeon also gets a blessing-wrapped candle to take home.
Cape Albeon’s Activity Director, Margaret Robison, says the annual event is one of the residents’ favorites. “When all candles are lit, the light from the candles signifies the blessings of Christ,” she says, and the result is “unbelievably beautiful!”
Cape Albeon Senior Community is made up of three “neighborhoods”: retirement cottages, retirement apartments, and assisted living and memory care services.