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Two congregations in Montague are holding community dinners on Christmas Day

Darren and Norma Dingwell are looking forward to sharing a Christmas dinner with those in the community. This is the first time the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is hosting a Christmas dinner.
Darren and Norma Dingwell are looking forward to sharing a Christmas dinner with those in the community. This is the first time the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is hosting a Christmas dinner. - Maureen Coulter

Montague Bible Fellowship and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church are hoping to fill bellies, warm hearts and spread some holiday cheer by holding community dinners on Christmas Day.

The Montague Bible Fellowship is holding it’s fourth annual Montague and area Christmas dinner at noon and the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is holding its first community Christmas dinner at 5 p.m.

Anne Van Donkersgoed, with the Montague Bible Fellowship, started the tradition after the closure of Sir Isaac’s restaurant in 2014 that had held annual Christmas dinners.

Van Donkersgoed said it was also a welcome distraction during a painful time in her life. Her mom, Jean Forrester, had died in July, followed by her dad, Peter, in October, and her youngest daughter, Sarah, on Dec. 29.

“One of the things for me was that I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to cope with Christmas,” said Van Donkersgoed. “I just thought that this would be a good way for me to have a different focus for Christmas and to kind of honour my mom.”

Van Donkersgoed said her mom was the type of woman who always welcomed people to the dinner table.

“She always looked for people at Christmas who didn’t have anywhere to go, and lots of our Christmases included extra people, even though she had nine children of her own.”

Van Donkersgoed said there are lots of people in the community who are facing loss, experiencing financial woes or are alone on Christmas, and this dinner is a way to bring all those people together.

“For lots of people, Christmas can be a sad time, so we are saying come and enjoy yourselves, have a meal, bring people or meet new people and just be part of a community.”

Anne Van Donkersgoed and her daughter, Gracie, 8, are ready to spend Christmas with others during the fourth annual Montague and area Christmas dinner hosted by Montague Bible Fellowship.
Anne Van Donkersgoed and her daughter, Gracie, 8, are ready to spend Christmas with others during the fourth annual Montague and area Christmas dinner hosted by Montague Bible Fellowship.
Anne Van Donkersgoed and her daughter, Gracie, 8, are ready to spend Christmas with others during the fourth annual Montague and area Christmas dinner hosted by Montague Bible Fellowship.

The St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Montague holds community meals every Wednesday night, but it decided to make a change next week so it falls on Christmas Day.

The weekly meals were an initiative born in May following an alpha course at the church.

“We just saw a need for people to come together in the community,” said Darren Dingwell, a congregation member.

Darren said upwards of 50 people attend the weekly community dinners, but the church is planning for upwards of 130 people for the Christmas dinner.

Darren and his wife, Norma, are looking forward to sharing a meal on this holy day.

“It’s for anybody and everybody, whatever their need is, hopefully we can fill it here,” said Norma.

“It’s a special time of year, especially for Christians, and it would just be really nice to bring everybody together on that day,” said Darren. “It’s a great opportunity for fellowship.”

Norma said it pulls at her heartstrings knowing there are people who are alone or who can’t afford a Christmas meal with all the fixings.  

“When my husband first talked about doing it, I was so excited. We just can’t wait.”

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