Charitable ‘Holy Walk’ could start a new Hill Holiday tradition

by Pete Mazzaccaro
Posted 12/9/20

This year, it was pretty clear the annual Christmas Pageant at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill was not going to happen.

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Charitable ‘Holy Walk’ could start a new Hill Holiday tradition

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For the last several years, Hill resident George McNeely has been co-director of the annual Christmas Pageant at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill. And this year, it was pretty clear that the annual gathering – the dozens of children and others, in close proximity singing songs, was not going to happen as Covid-19 continued to worsen.

McNeely said he ran into Rev. Jared Kerbel, who leads St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and as they commiserated about holiday plans, they began to develop the idea for an outdoor event. A committee was formed including Kerbel and St. Paul’s interim rector Rev. Albert Ogle and the plan for a “holy walk in the tradition of Las Posadas, a Latin American custom in which people participate in a recreation of Joseph and Mary seeking an inn before the birth of Jesus.

“We had to come up with some theme and so we decided to use the arrival of the Holy Family looking for an inn, which is the scene in the Christmas pageant in a way, where they get turned away at the inn and they’re looking for a place to stay because the baby's about to be born.”

In addition to St. Paul’s and St. Martin’s, Our Mother of Consolation, Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church and Christ Ascension Lutheran Church agreed to participate in the event and get the word out to their communities.

To organize the stops for the procession, Rev. Ogle contacted Molly Ellis, owner of Threadwell in Chestnut Hill, and she organized a group of Avenue businesses including Artisans on the Avenue, Noble Good, TC Unlimited, Tailored Home, McNally’s Pub, Busy Bee Toys, Sarah Campbell, El Quetzal and J McLaughlin to participate as “stops” along the way.

“It’s a really lovely thing for the churches to get together and do this,” Ellis said.

So on Saturday, Dec. 12, participants can meet with small groups at Christ Ascension Lutheran Church, at 8300 Germantown Avenue, and participate in a Las Posadas-style walk along the Avenue. Anyone who would like to take part is asked to register at go.dojiggy.io/walkoftheholyfamily2020walker. Registration is important to make sure groups remain socially distant.

To further the holiday spirit of the event those who register to walk can pledge donations to the Interfaith Hospitality Network, a charitable organization that raises money to combat homelessness. Small donations of $5 and $10 are being sought, though donors can choose to give more. As of this writing, 53 people had signed up to walk and had pledged $845.

In the end, McNeely said he hopes the event will provide people with a way to celebrate the holiday season as a community at a time when doing so is difficult.

“The event is not only about how much money we can raise,” McNeely said. “People could get together as a family and go outside and do something collectively that is socially distanced and safe and in the mood of the season.”

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