Church collects food at ‘Messiah’ sing-along
While many people continued to hit shopping malls for extended Black Friday sales on Sunday, hundreds of others started their holiday season with a Fresno tradition: the “Messiah” Sing-Along.
Nearly 700 people fill the First Presbyterian Church on M Street in downtown Fresno every year to sing the oratorio composed by George Frideric Handel in 1741.
The event is free, but those who participate are asked to donate nonperishable food to fill the church’s food closet and allow the ministry to help other community agencies distribute food to needy families throughout the year.
Deacons Ted and Diane Miller, who are in charge of the food closet this year, were busy sorting through canned vegetables and pasta boxes that poured in on Sunday.
“It’s astonishing how generous people are,” said Ted Miller, who used a little wagon to move the donated food in front of the sanctuary to the building next door. And those who receive the food “genuinely appreciate it,” he said.
Miller could not say how much food would be collected, but he said the amount of this year’s donations appeared similar to previous years.
The sing-along collection and a food drive among church members pull in the bulk of donations for the food closet. The church is able to provide food for at least 150 families throughout the year, Miller said.
The food donation is an important part of the sing-along, which marks the end of Thanksgiving and the beginning of the Christmas season, said Ryan Dull of Clovis, a church member.
“Everyone is feeling thankful and giving at the same time,” Dull said.
Sitting next to Dull was Steve Lam of Fresno, who has participated in the sing-along for eight years.
For Lam, the holiday season doesn’t begin until he sees the church’s music director, Julie Carter, wave her baton to direct the orchestra while most of the people sitting in the pews sing along.
“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Christmas than singing Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ ” Lam said.
It’s become a holiday tradition for the Roberts family. Brandon Roberts of Fresno brought his sons, ages 6 and 4 1/2, to their first sing-along.
“I love the tradition, the blend of cultures and the people here,” Roberts said. “It’s really neat to see everyone come together for this.”
By BoNhia Lee