Listen to the audio version in the video player above or download it below. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com
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RIGBY — The congregation of Crown of Life Church in Rigby is inviting you to feel the spirit of the season during a virtual Christmas celebration this month.
The celebration will include a daily devotional streamed on the church’s Facebook page. Each message will be pre-recorded and feature someone from the community reading a passage from the Bible and providing brief commentary about it. A musical number will then be performed by a local soloist or choir.
“The daily devotions will be five minutes or less. About two minutes of commentary and three minutes of music,” Pastor Dave Schilling tells EastIdahoNews.com. “It’s a countdown to Christmas, a way we can celebrate the advent season.”
Schilling will kick it off Monday, Dec. 7 with a message titled “True Hope.” He’ll be reading Isaiah 11:6 and offering some brief remarks. A new message will be posted every day until Christmas with remarks from different speakers. Among them will be Schilling’s wife, Naomi, who’ll be reading Luke 1:31-32. Mike Miller with Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office will provide some commentary about Isaiah 7:14 and Misty Moritz with Mrs. Powell’s Bakery will read Genesis 30:22-24.
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This virtual daily devotional format is the church’s way of continuing its annual Christmas celebration in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The church has hosted “Joy: A Jefferson County Christmas” for the last six years. The two-day event typically includes a Christmas program with music and treats and hundreds of nativity sets on display.
Kimber Tower plays the piano during the community celebration and was one of the people who helped get the program started. She says it’s gotten bigger every year.
“We made a point of making sure different Christian faiths were represented and anyone who would participate,” Tower told us earlier this year. “The first year we did it, it was so full. It was all the way back to the door and people were outside watching.”
More than 500 people attended last year’s event, Schilling says.
Crown of Life also hosts several service projects at this time of year. The church partnered with Teton House in Menan and North Butte Classic Car Foundation last week to provide Thanksgiving dinner for nearly 300 people.
“The most we’ve ever had. We were just slammed,” Schilling says. “Towards the end of the second hour we had to have people wait 10-15 minutes while Leo (the restaurant owner) thawed out some ham because we were entirely out of turkey and potatoes. But we ended up feeding everybody. It was a wonderful event.”
Church members help provide Christmas stockings for about 130 foster children throughout eastern Idaho every year and dozens of children whose parents are incarcerated benefit from the Angel Tree program.
Angel trees are placed in businesses throughout the community and decorated with tags that indicate a child’s age and what he or she wants for Christmas. Those who remove a tag are responsible for sponsoring that child’s Christmas.
Kori Ellis helps coordinate these service projects and she says it’s rewarding to see how it impacts the kid’s lives.
“One time I was delivering (Angel Tree gifts) to a house and a little girl ran out screaming, ‘Is that from my dad?!’” Ellis said earlier this year. “You’re making the connection for them and that’s a rewarding thing to me.”
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Schilling says all the tags were quickly removed from this year’s crop of Angel Trees. He isn’t sure how many tags there were, but volunteers will be collecting the sponsors’ gifts for the kids next week and delivering them to their homes the following week.
“It seems like we’ve got another project we’re wrapping up every week. We just love December, but at the end of the month we’re exhausted,” he says.
The community’s response to each of these projects is impressive, Schilling says, especially when the pandemic has made this year particularly challenging.
“I was hesitant that we’d be able to help as many families this year as we have in the past,” he says. “We depend upon the community’s generosity every year because our church doesn’t have all the resources. They come through year after year. It’s one of the most generous places I’ve ever lived.”
Schilling says the generosity he’s witnessed from the community helps set the mood as the church kicks off its virtual Christmas celebration next week. Though it will be a little different this year, he hopes it will still be meaningful and beneficial for those who see it.
To stream the daily devotionals or learn more, visit the Facebook page.
Pastor Dave Schilling at the pulpit during a worship service at Crown of Life last January. | Photo taken from a live stream of the service on Facebook
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