Churches Turn Black Friday Into Bless Friday
This post is part of Important Media’s More Love, Less Stuff holiday event. We’re sharing ideas to redefine holiday traditions to be less about stuff and more about gratitude, compassion, and love.
Today is Black Friday. If you haven’t received the emails, seen the commercials, or heard about Walmart’s amazing Black Friday deals from Melissa Joan Hart, you obviously aren’t in America. Unfortunately, it’s hard to ignore the push for consumerism that comes after the traditional push for Thanksgiving consumption; and I say, unfortunately because the idea that people line up at stores to buy more crap on their day off just depresses me. Not only is mass consumerism bad for the environment, it’s also bad for the spirit.
Fortunately, Christians are vocalizing their distate for the “holiday.” Pope Francis recently made news when he decried the “constant assaults on the natural environment, the result of unbridled consumerism.” And now some churches are fighting back by promoting “Bless Friday,” an observance promoting charity work that seeks to bless the less fortunate.
Chuck Fox, the founder of Bless Friday, told the Christian Post 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 Black Friday is now impinging on Thanksgiving too. Can’t we take one day to pause and count our blesssings?”
In 2010, Fox convinced his pastor at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston to turn Black Friday into Bless Friday by making it a day of meeting the needs of less fortunate. The idea has been quick to catch on. This year, the range of congregations involved increased with more churches participating in Houston, and even a Catholic church, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Seattle joining the fun.
Participating churches oversee various charitable efforts 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 sheleter. The Church of St. John the Divine is focusing its observance on serving the homeless at The Beacon, a homeless center established by Christ Church Cathedral, in downtown Houston.
Andrea Meier, director of publications at St. John the Divine, said 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 echoed Meier’s sentiments, “It’s a way to jump into the spirit of the Christmas season, a spirit of serving, giving, and sharing the blessings of Christ.” Memorial Drive Presbyterian will pack beans and rice for their food pantry, make pillows for wounded veterans, and fill “Christmas shoeboxes” for international seafarers. “What’s awesome is that churches inherintely 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.”
Figuring out ways to celebrate a holiday that’s become less about honoring the birth of a Jesus and more about buying, buying, buying, should be important to Christians every where. Fox is convinced that if people start the season with Bless Friday, there is a better chance that Jesus will remain the focus.
“Every year Christ seems to move further and further into the background at Christmas,” said Fox. “But Christ is why we have Christmas. God didn’t send His only son to Earth to save us so that we could celebrate with a shopping spree.”
Good point. Do you really think Jesus would spend Thanksgiving night camped outside Best Buy? Before you rush to the mall this holiday season, ask yourself why you’re celebrating Christmas in the first place.
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