AUGUSTA — Kennebec Community Church has never had a Christmas eve service like the one they’ll have Saturday. The church will hold two services at the Augusta Civic Center designed to bring the community together to celebrate the season.

Church officials said they decided to rent out the Augusta Civic Center after Easter when they realized they needed a bigger space to accommodate the church’s growth. There will be 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. services and free local food, live music, and free professional family photographs courtesy of Chris Bouluc Photography. An optional children’s program will be provided for newborns through fourth graders.

The church has received more than 2,000 RSVPs for both services and officials expect many more than that to attend. It’s all about sharing the Christmas message with the community, said Josh Baker, the church’s community life director.

“We’re a younger staff with a lot of energy and passion, and we believe in what we’re trying to do,” Baker said. “Our motto is to love Jesus, love others and help others love Jesus, and if we keep it that simple, we’re just trying to affect the lives of people in our community.”

Members will be treated to a service similar to the 90-minute ones held every Sunday at the church’s permanent home on St. Andrews Street in Augusta. There will be a live band and a message from the Rev. Dan Coleman, the church’s lead pastor.

“We bring a lot of energy and people get excited about that,” Baker said. “Tomorrow will have a little more worship because we’ll have the people that don’t come to church but a few times a year, the CEOs, Christmas and Easter only.”

He said the goal on Christmas eve is to excite the less-than-regular attendees and get their attention to share the church’s message, which Baker said hasn’t changed in 2000 years.

With this much interest and enthusiasm about the church and what it’s doing in the community, officials have begun preparing to make changes to make the church more accessible to its growing membership. The church is adding a Saturday service beginning Jan. 7, which will bring the total number of weekend services to four.

Baker also said the church is in the process of expanding their capacity at their current location in order to continue hosting large holiday services and other community events. The church hopes to begin a building campaign next year to raise the funds to build a large auditorium on their property.

“We’re very much about the community, and if the community had a need that we could help fulfill, we’d certainly be interested in that,” he said.

Across central Maine, Christians will commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ while Jews will celebrate the first night of Hanukkah. Christmas eve and the first night of Hanukkah coincide for the first time since 1978, and it won’t happen again until 2027; it usually happens a few times each century.

People often say Hanukkah is early or late, but it always occurs right on time on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, meaning it falls sometime between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, said Rabbi Erica Asch of Temple Beth El in Augusta.

“The fact that Hanukkah and Christmas fall of the same day this year means some Jewish families will share their holiday with their Christian relatives,” Asch said in an email. “For other Jewish families, it means no work or no school and more time to spend with family.”

Interfaith families deal with the dilemma of navigating two religious holidays every year, but overlapping celebrations creates a unique challenge. But it’s definitely a good thing for children, because not only will they receive presents on Christmas, but they could also get a gift for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah.

“Many Jewish families have one parent who grew up in a Christian home and extended family who are Christian,” Asch said. “All of my children’s cousins are Christian and their grandmother celebrates Christmas.”

One of Temple Beth El’s Hanukkah traditions is volunteering on Christmas Day at Addie’s Attic clothing bank in Augusta. Asch said volunteering on Christmas is a way for Jews to let their Christian neighbors enjoy their holiday.

The synagogue has been volunteering at Addie’s each month for the past year. There is a group of congregants who sort clothing when the attic is closed, and this year, they will be doing some cleaning as well as opening the Attic for a new family from Afghanistan and three new families from Syria.

“All these families have been in Augusta (a short time) and have a need for clothing and the toiletries provided by the basic essentials pantry,” Asch said.

Mike and Sarah Dickey help coordinate the temple’s work at Addie’s Attic and said the year-round volunteering is essential to help others.

“From a personal perspective, it’s incredibly rewarding to reach out, and it feels so good to do something so productive,” the couple said by email. “We’re not just throwing money at a problem, and we get to interact with people and build relationships.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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