Black Friday may officially kick off the Christmas shopping season in many people’s minds, but for some in Houston, Texas, it also means a day of service and a time to help those in need.
This year, eight local churches are providing an alternative to the frenzied Christmas shopping occurring on the day after Thanksgiving through a project called Bless Friday.
“This is a different way to start off the season,” Chuck Fox, founder of Bless Friday, told The Christian Post Monday. He said people are becoming tired of the consumerism that the Christmas season brings, and Bless Friday provides a “thoughtful call to action” to do something different.
Although Fox’s day job is in the energy business in Houston, he says Bless Friday is his calling. He came up with the idea two years ago after listening to a sermon at his father’s church. The topic of the priest’s homily centered on the advent season, and how society is losing sight of why we celebrate Christmas.
“By the time I went to bed that night, I knew I needed to take the day after Thanksgiving and turn it from a day devoted to shopping to one devoted to service,” Fox said.
Taylor Dawson, outreach coordinator at The Church of St. John the Divine Episcopal, said this is the first year her church is participating in Bless Friday. So far, about 30 people have signed up.
The participants will be going to two different ministries in the area. One group will make and serve food at The Beacon, which is a homeless center that provides food and laundry for those in need. Another group from the church will also help out at an urban garden at Agape Development Ministries.
Dawson said Bless Friday appeals to her and those in the congregation because they are “interested in doing something counterculture.” It is a non-consumer opportunity that offers families an alternative to shopping, she said.
Dave Peterson, senior pastor at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, echoed Dawson’s remarks in a statement, "We want to transform lives as people reconnect to the real reason we celebrate Christmas."
MDPC congregants are volunteering at local ministries. One of the ministries they will be volunteering at is Star of Hope, a center that helps the homeless in the Houston area.
Participating churches can choose what ministries they want to be involved with. Fox said they aren’t asking churches to create new ministries, or change what their outreach focus is as a church. Rather, they want them to work with the ministries they already have established and schedule something on Black Friday.
St. Luke's United Methodist Church decided to hold a pot luck lunch where participants will prepare “blessing bags” of non-perishable food items for distribution to the homeless and needy. Children's ministry director Mireya Ottaviano said in a statement, "Many at St. Luke's want to spend a portion of the day giving thanks by sharing their bounty with others and send a message that Advent is about celebrating our values, not focusing on material things."
Fox said that Bless Friday is something that can be replicated in churches across the United States. “All people have to do is decide to take a portion of the day after Thanksgiving and bless someone with it,” he said.
This year, at least 200 members of Fox’s home church are participating in the project. He said he is thankful that more churches have signed on this year and believes this is “a chance for a transformation [of] how people view Christmas.”