The first time the members of St. James Episcopal Church hosted the Tastes and Sounds of Christmas as a "thank you" to the community for its support of various charities, organizers hoped 100 people would attend.
"We had well over 200," said Elaine Chiles, who was involved in the 2001 event and is one of two chairwomen this year. The event outgrew St. James and was moved to the art gallery and theater at West Virginia State University.
The event wasn't held for the past two years, after the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia decreed that the members of four small Episcopal churches combine as one unified congregation. The congregations of the former St. James in North Charleston, All Saints in South Charleston, St. Luke's on the West Side and Church of the Good Shepherd in Kanawha City joined ranks to form St. Christopher, in the former St. Luke's church about 18 months ago, said Bishop Michie Klusmeyer, Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia.
Mildred Holt, a 50-year member of St. James, remembers her aversion to the combined church.
"I'm amazed at myself. At the time, in my heart I knew that I'd never accept this," she said. "Now, I absolutely love this church. It took a while to get used to each other, but now we're working together as one on projects."
The members of St. Christopher adopted the Tastes and Sounds of Christmas 2008, as its first major public project. The festive meal and holiday entertainment event is a fundraiser for St. Christopher's charitable causes, and is set for 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Beni Kedem Shrine Center, Holt said.
"Since we have merged, we consider ourselves as one church," Chiles said. "This is our first major event to put our name out there before the general public."
Tickets are less expensive than in previous years because organizers hope the event will be affordable for area families, Holt said. Prices are $10 for adults and $5 for children aged 4 to 11. Children under 4 are admitted free.
The menu includes cranberry and Waldorf salads, turkey and dressing, ham with cherry sauce and roast beef with side dishes such as green bean almondine, macaroni and cheese, Southern sweet potatoes, wild rice and baked fruit
The homemade desserts steal the show, as church members bake their specialties and bring them in to serve at the dinner, including Christmas cookies and puddings, chocolate cake and bread puddings and other cakes, bars and pies. The men of the church serve wassail, eggnog, punch and other beverages.
Musical entertainment includes Brothers in the Cross, Kanawha Kordsmen, Almost Heaven Chorus, Larry Cole on classical guitar, vocalist Gloria Thompson, and the St. Christopher Choir led by director Fred Chiles, who will also play piano. The choir will lead the audience in a carol singalong.
"This is a wonderful event. It's one of the outward signs of the unity of the four churches," Klusmeyer said. "They've done well. By any measure, it's been a success."
Reach Julie Robinson at jul...@wvgazette.com or 348-1230
Want to go?
Tastes and Sounds of Christmas
WHEN: 4 to 7 p.m.
WHERE: Beni Kedem Shrine Center,
TICKETS: $10 for adults, $5 for children aged 4 to 11, and free for children under age 4
Fresh Apple-Nut Cheesecake
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter melted
MIX crumbs, pecans, sugar, cinnamon and butter. Press mixture onto bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
BAKE at 325 degrees for 10 minutes.
2 packages (8 ounces each) softened cream cheese