Some churches are countering the trend of Black Friday shopping and materialism by promoting "Bless Friday," an observance promoting charity work that seeks to bless the less fortunate.
Eva Kaminski, associate director of Communications at Memorial Drive Presbyterian in Houston, told The Christian Post that Bless Friday is "an encouragement for people to shift their focus from shopping to serving."
"Bless Friday is something that our congregation and staff have embraced. The beauty is in the soul-building that occurs when we focus on others instead of self, and serve in Christ's Name," she said.
The observance has been taking place annually since 2010, starting with churches in the Houston, Texas area.
Chuck Fox, founder of Bless Friday, told CP that for this year's Bless Friday, the range of congregations involved has increased. "This year we added West University Baptist Church and Crosspoint Church in Houston, and for the first time we are able to announce that a Catholic church, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Seattle is participating too."
"We have had participation from large, upper income, predominantly white, suburban churches; small, lower income, black, urban churches and churches serving the immigrant Hispanic community."
Participating churches oversee various charitable efforts for Bless Friday, including serving lunch to the needy, packing supplies for a local food pantry, picking up trash at a local park, and volunteering at a homeless shelter.
One of the churches that has taken part in Bless Friday in past years is The Church of St. John the Divine of Houston. Andrea Meier, director of Publications at St. John the Divine, told CP:
"This year, The Church of St. John the Divine is focusing its observance on serving the homeless at The Beacon in downtown Houston."
"The Beacon is a day center in downtown Houston which serves the immediate needs of the homeless. Volunteers from SJD will serve hundreds of hot lunches to Houston's underserved and homeless population."
Meier added that "offering alternatives to heavily consumer oriented days such as Black Friday is a very important expression of St. John the Divine's mission of Changing Lives for God in Christ."
Eva Kaminski of Memorial Drive Presbyterian in Houston would agree, "It's a way to jump into the spirit of the Christmas season, a spirit of serving, giving, and sharing the blessings of Christ."
There are multiple projects Memorial Drive Presbyterian will be undertaking this year, including packing beans and rice for their food pantry, making pillows for wounded veterans, and filling "Christmas shoeboxes" for international seafarers.
"What's awesome is that churches inherently encourage this sort of behavior year-round! Black Friday just offers our particular church an opportunity to bring some attention to how we could be living each and every day."
Fox, founder of Bless Friday, told CP that he felt that "Bless Friday" was "a way to be constructively countercultural" in the face of massive commercialization. "People have been shaking their heads for years when they see the lines on Black Friday and the violence that sometimes precedes store openings on that day," said Fox.
"Now they are really taken aback when they observe that Black Friday is now impinging on Thanksgiving too. Can't we even take one day to pause and count our blessings?"