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A Spring Season of a Different Color: Holy Holidays around Peachtree Corners

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Spring is coming soon to warm our weary bones after a long winter, and with it the sense of hope and rebirth. With that in mind, many look forward to Passover, Easter and other celebrations in the area, so break out the matzah and the egg-dyeing kits!

Beth Shalom

Beth Shalom is currently observing the Purim holiday, which commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman (an Achaemenid Persian Empire official who planned to persecute the Jewish people as recounted in the Book of Esther).

As for the actual days of Passover, on March 27 there will be Shabbat Services at 9:30 a.m and a candle lighting at 8:36 p.m. The following day, there will be a virtual Passover Seder at 7:15 p.m. and candle lighting at 8:37 p.m.

Regarding Passover, the Sisterhood Gift Shop Network of Beth Shalom is holding a Passover gift shopping event on March 14 from 1 to 2 p.m. For one day only, Beth Shalom Gift Shop items can be purchased at home via Zoom, then picked up and paid for at the shul circle on March 19, 12 – 2 p.m., or March 21, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Email Jody Kassel at jodykassel5@gmail.com to RSVP.

There are three main events related to Purim at Beth Shalom. The first is the Mishloach Manot, which means ‘sending portions. The ritual that revolves around sending food to Jewish family and friends. Beth Shalom’s Purim Mishloach Manot program is their youth department’s largest fundraiser, and they ask that those who wish to participate in the holiday do so in a few different ways.

For just $6 per recipient, you can send a bag to anyone on the Beth Shalom membership list, including the preschool families and staff at Beth Shalom.

By making a donation of $180, you can send a bag to everyone in the shul. Each family was mailed a personal link to a Happy Purim website with instructions on how to complete orders. This year, the bags will be delivered to homes between February 21 and February 26.

Then there is the Erev Purim Megillah Reading, or reading of the Book of Esther, on February 25 at 7 p.m. Join in on Zoom and wear a costume, a customary way to celebrate Purim, in reference to Esther’s historic “dressing up” as a queen to hide her true heritage. Fun games will also be part of the evening.

Lastly, the Return to Shushan Purim Celebration will be held February 28 from 12 to 1:30 p.m., weather permitting This will feature outdoor games, crafts, lunch, a costume parade and Children’s Megillah reading. If necessary, due to bad weather, the parade will be moved to a car costume parade.
Please visit bethshalom.net for any updates to holiday activities.

Chabad of Gwinnett

After a rousing conversation with Rabbi Yossi Lerman, his passion to help the good people of Chabad of Gwinnett celebrate an authentic Passover Seder in the comfort and safety of their own homes appeared abundantly apparent. Similar to last year’s accommodations, staff and volunteers will assemble Passover kits that will contain many of the non-perishable necessary ingredients and the instructions to have a Passover Seder at home.

The ‘family’ of Chabad of Gwinnett clearly puts so much heart and faith into these holy preparations, as evidenced by the hard work of Rabbi Lerman, his wife Esther, and all the dedicated individuals that make the home Seders possible. Zoom trainings will also be held as another helpful resource to guide people through Seder procedures.

“Everything today is DIY — Do It Yourself Passover,” Lerman said, “We are very excited about the fact that we provide not only the square, machine-made matzah, but we also make the handmade round matzah. That is the authentic matzah; if I went back to Egypt to meet my great-great grandfather, his matzah was round like the handmade matzah.”

The chicken and brisket that traditionally feature in the Seder meal are not provided, though Chabad of Gwinnett has graciously given financial assistance to some of those in the community who might need support to purchase those Seder items.

Traditional Candle Lightings will be held throughout Passover, with additional information included in the kits. On March 27, the First Seder and Eve of Passover, the holiday candles will be lit after 8:31 p.m. A Torah reading and blessing will also be given with all candle lightings. March 28 marks the Second Seder and First Day of Passover, with the lighting after 8:32 p.m. The final day of Passover is April 4.

To RSVP and learn more, visit chabadofgwinnett.org for updates to the Passover 2021 schedule. Rabbi Lerman has requested anyone with questions contact him at rabbi@chabadofgwinnett.org or 678-595-0196.

Peachtree Corners Baptist Church

Peachtree Corners Baptist Church (PCBC) currently has plans to hold 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. services both in-person and online for Easter Sunday, April 4. More information will be posted on pcbchurch.org.

Unity Atlanta

All Sunday Services are available both in person (with advance registration and masks required) and live-streamed. Unity Atlanta’s special Lent Series entitled “Destined to Rise” begins Sunday, February 2. The Palm Sunday Service will be held March 28 at 11 a.m. and the Maundy Thursday Service is April 1 at 7 p.m., in both in-person and livestream formats.

Easter Services are scheduled on Sunday April 4. Sunrise Service with be in person; the time and possibility of livestreaming it are both to be determined. The Unity Atlanta website will have updates closer to the date.

An in-person and livestream Easter Service will also be held 11 a.m. Please visit unityatl.org for updates.

Christ the King Lutheran Church (CtK)

CtK is offering a Lenten Bible Study. Visit the link above for more information.

Landmark Church

Easter service will be held at the standard time. 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Mary Our Queen Catholic Church

Photo from Mary Our Queen site.

Lent is in full swing and revolves around Wednesdays and Fridays at Mary Our Queen.

Wednesdays at Mary Our Queen During Lent- Starting Wednesday, February 24. Daily Mass at Noon. Adoration begins right after Noon Mass. Confession is available from 5- 6 p.m. Holy Hour with Lenten Reflection and Prayers every Wednesday during Lent from 7- 8 p.m.

Fridays at Mary Our Queen During Lent- Starting Friday, February 19. Sanctuary Open for Prayer and Reflection. After Noon Mass to 7 p.m. Masks and Social Distancing Required. Stations of the Cross– 7- 7:30 pm in the Sanctuary. Due to the Pandemic, the Men’s Club will not be offering Lenten Dinners on Fridays during Lent. More info at maryourqueen.com/resources-for-lent-2021/

Mt. Carmel UMC

There will be 8 a.m and 10 a.m Easter Services. It is uncertain whether or not this will be able to be in person, as the church currently meeting virtually until it appears safe to meet in person.

Peachtree Corners Presbyterian Church
Worship will be held at the normal time, from 10:45a.m -12:15 p.m. in the sanctuary.

Simpsonwood UMC

The Easter Schedule at Simpsonwood UMC is as follows.

8 a.m.: Sunday Service On-Line
9:45 a.m.: Children and Youth Zoom Sunday School
10 a.m.: Confirmation
11 a.m.: Outdoor Service

At press time, many places of worship were still in the process of making holiday event and service plans. Please check the websites for the most up-to-date information.

*This article has been updated from the print version with updated information.

Beth Shalom
bethshalom.net
Chabad of Gwinnett
chabadofgwinnett.org
Christ the King Lutheran Church
ctklutheran.org
Corners Church of Christ
cornerschurch.org
Landmark Church
landmarkchurch.org
Mary Our Queen Catholic Church
maryourqueen.com
Mount Carmel UMC
mtcarmel-umc.org
Peachtree Corners Baptist Church
pcbchurch.org
Peachtree Corners Christian Church
peachtreecornerscc.org
Peachtree Corners Presbyterian Church
pcarpchurch.org
Perimeter Church
perimeter.org
Simpsonwood UMC
simpsonwoodumc.org

Kelsey Asher is a proud graduate of the University of West Georgia with a Bachelor’s in Communications. She has held a variety of marketing leadership roles for several small, startup companies in a variety of industries including publishing, construction and technology.

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Peachtree Corners Baptist Church recognized by the American Red Cross for hosting Local Blood Drives

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pcbc blood drives
PCBC blood drives. Photos provided by PCBC.

Peachtree Corners Baptist Church (PCBC) has been ranked number 10 by the American Red Cross on their list of top 100 blood collection sites in Georgia. By conducting monthly blood drives at PCBC since April 2020, the church has collected an astounding 817 units of blood to date. Since each unit of blood helps save three lives, the local blood drives have benefited around 2,451 people in the community during the threat of Covid-19.

PCBC and the American Red Cross will continue to partner during the pandemic with blood drives scheduled each month through August 2021. The next blood drive will be held at the church on February 25, 2021, from 9am to 3pm. Volunteers can register online at: Schedule Your Blood Donation With The Red Cross (redcrossblood.org)

Source: PCBC press releases

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Faith

Peachtree Corners Teams Bring Faith to Sports

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pcbx basketball
Photos by George Hunter.

A quick inbound pass whistles by, just out of reach of a defender. The ball’s grabbed, then quickly bounced — passed to another lanky youngster on the Tarheels (not the North Carolina college team, but youngsters on the cusp of being teenagers) basketball squad.

“Shoot it!” yells a teammate.

One quick pivot and a turnaround jumper later, the ball swishes cleanly through the net.
Such is a microcosm of youth hoops November through February at Peachtree Corners Baptist Church (PCBC), which plays host to a highly regarded and mainly intermural sports program that gathers in as many as 1,000 youngsters and adults annually. That includes boys’ and girls’ basketball (ages 7 to 12), with nearly a workday’s-worth of games playing out on a particularly chilly January Saturday.

As is the case with any such program, the scene is familiar. Players, parents and coaches shouting into the echoing cavern of the gym, the squeak of sneakers and the rhythmic ‘thunk, thunk’ of ball meeting hardwood.

Sit in the bleachers for a while, however, and the differences between it and some other programs manifest. No trash talk. No angry disputing of referee calls. Coaches who encourage instead of demean.

‘A good atmosphere’

“It’s the first time I’ve been here,” said Dan Marschke, a Walton County resident, in between yelling in-game encouragement to his grandson. “I think it’s a good atmosphere.”

Unfortunately, the “feel” has changed a bit this year with a pandemic continuing to rage. As COVID-19 gained steam this past spring, adult basketball, tee-ball, and machine pitch baseball were shut down. The program returned with summer camps and precautions in place going forward.

As a faith-based organization, creating a team from youngsters, sometimes less than perfectly disciplined and lacking basketball experience, happens on the parallel tracks of skill improvement plus character / spiritual development. The recreational benefits of sports and fun are emphasized over winning and losing, said league coordinator Billy Sowell. Bringing players closer to Christ — pumping up that faith muscle, so to speak — is also a prime priority.

At PCBC, that takes the form of a devotional done in the course of weekly practice and prayer before games. Coaches, parents and kids all seem to appreciate the connection.

“I get to be closer to God,” is how 13-year-old Grayson McCollum put it, referring to those 15-minute practice devotionals. “He gave me everything that I am blessed with today so I want to be as close as I can.”

Not only has his faith strengthened, he indicated, but the experience has fostered a more even temperament. Cooperation, building each other up and taking responsibility are the default, not anger and blame shifting.

Peachtree Corners City Manager Brian Johnson, who coaches the Blue Devils team his 12-year-old Elias plays on, backs up that mindset. “The general benefit is learning teamwork and sportsmanship and how to be a good winner and a good loser,” he said, “and that practice makes perfect. It takes time to get better.” He added that personal development happens more than at the player level.

At the end of the season, Johnson said, “I feel like I’ve learned things, not just the kids. For me it’s a little taste of what it’s like to be a teacher.”

As an adjunct to that notion, he’s mindful that how he handles a bad referee call or tough loss sets an example.

And sometimes playing in a structured environment can lead to an inflection point or alteration in direction. Tarheels player and coaches’ son Michael Brown Jr. said the experience has led to a changed view on sports.

“I always thought soccer was going to be my thing, but basketball has proven to be a really fun sport,” he said emphatically.

He said that a winter holiday made longer by concerns over COVID-19 posed a challenge. “We came back from break and you could definitely tell that we had been gone for a while,” Brown Jr. said. That rustiness led into some rehabilitative drilling on the basics.

Pandemic concerns have also made another kind of dent in the program. Sowell says four teams had been “quarantined” as of January 26, sitting out of games and practices. Two of the teams involved were exposed to coaches who have tested positive. The other two stemmed from cases where a player had tested positive within two days of playing a game. Three of the teams had returned as of January 26, with the other set to come back the following week.

He said that a couple of games and several practices had been canceled.

COVID and other concerns notwithstanding, parents seem very happy with the sports ministry.

“Everybody knows about the program here,” said Karen McCollum, the mother of 13-year-old Grayson and 12-year-old brother Maddox. “We believe highly in keeping our kids involved in sports and keeping them focused. “They’ve learned so much from the coaches and the players.”

That’s like music to Sowell’s ears and, to him, is reflective of the program’s laser focus on faith. “We want to use sports as a way to introduce the love of Jesus,” he said, making it clear to the youngsters “that God gave them the abilities to play and have fun and that’s what we want to focus on.”

Onward and upward

Programs such as PCBC’s occupy an expanding role in the constellation of youth recreational sports.
South Carolina-based Upward Sports partners with churches to help them begin and maintain sports ministries, with more than 1,500 such congregations on its roster last year. Their Partner Engagement Manager, Drew Provence, said the goal is to help local congregations connect with their surrounding communities through the gospel.

“It’s a universal language,” is how Provence put it. “We’ve seen that 95% of all people interact with sports in some fashion.” And, he said, churches can use the outreach and that universal language as a way to attract new members to the flock.

Officials with the local church said that’s a story that’s repeatedly played out over the years, as players and families from the community at-large make the jump from setting foot on the property for a first time to becoming staunch members of the congregation.

Not just for kids

Sowell said that roughly 10% of those involved in their sports programs are church members.

Capitalizing on that broad base to draw from, he said, the men’s basketball program has become very competitive with several former professional and high-profile college players among the ranks.

“That’s why I started the 35-and-over league for players who want to be more recreational than competitive,” he said.

That recreational and developmental focus is on full display in the winter Saturday youth basketball program, said Tarheels coach Michael Brown Sr. A former school basketball player himself, Brown said he’s “thrilled” that his son has also fallen in love with the sport.

“It’s a great thing for a father and a son or a father and a daughter. I really enjoy working with the kids. We’ve got a great community here and a lot of talent and if I can just offer a little guidance and motivation, it’s great.”

Girls allowed — and encouraged

That same dynamic applies in the church’s girls’ basketball league, which takes over the gym earlier on Saturday before the boys storm the court. So said Perry McWilliams, a church staffer who helps direct a girls’ team dubbed the Cardinals. He shares coaching duties with a family friend and his sister, and he said taking on that role after spending some time coaching boys’ squads has been a revelatory experience.

“This is my first year of coaching a team of young ladies and you would think they wouldn’t be as rowdy as the boys are — and that’s definitely not the case,” he said. “It’s an athletic bunch and they need just as much redirection as the boys do. That’s been very interesting. Kids will be kids, no matter what.”

That direction is valuable and well worth it, said Johnson, despite many demands during his day. “I think that with growing up playing structured sports into college and having great coaches and parents to support me, I’d like to think I have something of value to add to my team and the league,” Johnson said. “I believe that’s worth a little extra time.”

McWilliams said he was surprised that some of the youngsters weren’t familiar with such elemental basketball phraseology as “traveling” and “triple double” and needed considerable drilling on the ins and outs of defensive play. Building on a firm foundation, he noted, there have been vast improvements since the season’s outset, not the least of which has been fewer air balls.

McCollum said her boys and his teammates also have needed some on-court and courtside corralling. “There are always times when they don’t want to do something; they don’t want to go to practice or something like that. But we firmly believe that when you start something, you finish it,” she said. “Once they’re there, they love it, and it’s much better than sitting in front of an electronic device.”

Sowell wants to grow participation in the programs that they have now, but that’s proving difficult in one area.

With nearby Cornerstone Christian Academy and PCBC’s own preschool using the gym during the day and practical limitations on practice — having 11-year-olds doing shooting drills at midnight is far from optimal — he said they’re capped at roughly 220 hoops participants on board. Sowell said he hates having to have a waiting list and to be turning away eager kids.

He has hopes that Cornerstone will eventually construct its own gym, giving PCBC more wiggle room and increasing participation.

No matter what 2021 and the years beyond might bring, Sowell has the overall goal firmly in his sights — making the Bible, and in particular one verse — a linchpin of the sports ministry.

“Our verse that we use is I Corinthians 9:25,” he said. From a modern Bible translation, it goes thusly: “All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. “

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Ring in the Holidays- Service and activities schedules

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walk through bethlehem 2019
From Simpsonwood UMC Site, Walk Through Bethlehem 2019

Worship and fellowship may look a little different this holiday season, but whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or other traditions, we at Peachtree Corners wholeheartedly wish you a happy, healthy holiday. Here is a comprehensive snapshot of how nearby churches and synagogues plan to observe this holiday season.

Beth Shalom

Music at Beth Shalom

Hanukkah 2020 activities kicks off at Beth Shalom on Monday, December 7 at 7:30 p.m., celebrating with a live Zoom cooking demonstration hosted by Julie Horowitz, making the first delicious batch of latkes for the week.

The outdoor Hanukkah party will be held on Sunday, December 13, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Food, story time, music and games are on offer. The large menorah will be lit. There is no cost to attend, but adults are asked for a $10 fee for lunch, $6 for children. Please register ahead of time.

There are several other readings, candle lightings and services throughout the week, with many opportunities to tune in virtually via Zoom. Find the full schedule at bethshalom.net.

Christ the King Lutheran Church

Christ the King will hold three Christmas Eve services on Thursday, December 24. The Family Service is scheduled for 4 p.m., with the Contemporary service following at 6 p.m. and the Traditional service at 8 p.m. The church is also hosting an online holiday craft fair. Check out ctklutheran.org for more information.

Chabad Enrichment Center of Gwinnett

Chanukah 2020 at The Chabad Enrichment Center of Gwinnett will begin with a Virtual
Chanukah Celebration on Thursday, December 10 at 7 p.m. It will consist of a menorah lighting, joyous music and a video presentation. Register for Zoom information.

A Parade of Light will take place on Wednesday, December 16, the seventh night of Chanukah. It will start at Chabad of Gwinnett at 6 p.m. with police escort. Guests are invited to follow along in the car parade, which will end at The Forum on Peachtree Parkway, followed by a grand menorah lighting at 7 p.m. at Chabad of Gwinnett. Amada Kosher Food Truck will be available 4:30-7 p.m.

There are also several outdoor menorah lighting ceremonies being held at different locations, as well as a holiday Hebrew School reunion. Consult the chabadofgwinnett.org events calendar for more info.

Landmark Church

The family of The  Landmark Church remaining scheduled meeting times for the month of December are as follows:

December 20,2020 at 10:30a.m., December 27,2020 at 10:30a.m.

On  every  Wednesday of December, the church meets virtually on zoom. The meeting login  Id is 672-614-4455 or if using your phone, the Id is 301-715-8592.

Mary Our Queen Catholic Church

Mary Our Queen (MOQ) will hold several holiday masses, including Midnight Masses leading up to Friday, January 1. Multiple Christmas Eve Vigil masses will be held Thursday, December 24 at 4, 4:30, 6, 8, and 10 p.m. Visit maryourqueen.com and check the maryourqueen.com calendar for full details. There’s also a link on the site for live streaming of masses.

Mount Carmel United Methodist

Mount Carmel UMC will have two Christmas Eve Services, the first at 5 p.m. and the second at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 24. For more information, go to mtcarmel-umc.org.

Northpoint Community Church

Join Northpoint Community Church for multiple Christmas tree lighting events on the Northpoint Lawn, Friday-Sunday, December 11-13 at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. each night.

The Unexpected Christmas 12 Day Devotional Journey Through the Christmas Story will begin Monday, December 14, and will be delivered daily by text messages to those who sign up for it. The church also offers a Countdown to Christmas digital family advent calendar.
Visit northpoint.org for service updates.

Peachtree Corners Baptist Church

Peachtree Corners Baptist Church (PCBC) will once again host the Neighborhood Cooperative Ministries Merry Market this December. Join the church family and the Peachtree Corners and Norcross communities in filling the Merry Market with toys for kids of all ages. They need volunteers to help provide an amazing Christmas experience and share the love of Jesus with those less fortunate.

The main shopping day event is Saturday, December 12, with activities throughout the rest of the week.

The Christmas eve service will be online only. The services will run at 4, 6, and 8 p.m. Visit pcbchurch.org for more information on Merry Market and on upcoming holiday services.

Perimeter Church

Perimeter Church, Christmas Eve Candlelight services.

Perimeter Church will hold online Christmas Eve Candlelight services on Thursday, December 24 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Celebrate the sweetness of this special night with carols, powerful music and the traditional lighting of candles. Tune in at the Perimeter website (perimeter.org), Perimeter Church app, Facebook page or YouTube channel. The church also offers Sunday services during Advent, November 29 through December 20. The services are on Sundays at 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. at the same outlets as above, as well as AppleTV.

There are other opportunities for holiday fellowship, service and giving, too, so check out christmas.perimeter.org for everything happening at Perimeter Church this holiday season.

Simpsonwood United Methodist Church

The much-loved Walk Through Bethlehem program at Simpsonwood United Methodist Church (SUMC) will continue virtually this year. SUMC has this to say: “Join us online in 2020 as we bring the magic of Walk Through Bethlehem into your home! Together we will follow Mary as she makes her way to the manger in the little town of Bethlehem. Our virtual Walk Through Bethlehem will premiere on Christmas Eve. Check back for more updates and a glimpse behind the scenes as Simpsonwood brings this annual Christmas tradition into your homes and hearts!”

Walk through Bethlehem 2019

Simpsonwood UMC has teamed up with local members of the film industry to re-imagine their annual Walk Through Bethlehem event into a movie experience that will be a part of their online Christmas Eve service. Along with traditional songs of the season and a Christmas message from Senior Pastor John Purrington, viewers will travel through the colorful shops of Bethlehem on their way to the manger. Together, viewers will experience the magic of the Christmas Story like never before.

Simpsonwood’s Christmas Eve service will premiere at 5:00 pm on December 24, on the Simpsonwood UMC website, Facebook page, and YouTube. Following the premiere, service will be available on demand.

Visit simpsonwoodumc.org or the full article for more information.

Unity Atlanta Church

Unity Atlanta Church presents “The Gifts of Christmas” Candle Lighting Service on Thursday, December 24, from 4:45 to 6 p.m. The evening will start with a beautiful preconcert performance. The traditional Christmas Eve Candle Lighting service begins at 5 p.m. and will feature soloists, a quartet and a reader’s theater of “The Gift of the Magi.”

Registration is required, so attendees should go to unityatl.org to sign up.

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