by Mary Maxie
Psalm 18:28 (NIV)
You, Lord, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.
I grew up in a small town (Population 6,000) in Alberta Canada, in the United Church of Canada, which combined Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregationalist Churches more than 100 years ago. There was a girls’ group, which started in elementary school called “Explorers.” Our group hymn was ‘This is My Father’s World.”
In middle school, we graduated to Canadian Girls In Training (CGIT). This group was for girls in grades 7-12. The purpose of CGIT was to teach us to be good Christians, responsible and caring adults, and to be good corporate citizens in every sense of the word. Our hymn was ‘Fairest Lord Jesus’ and I can still recall all the words by memory all these years later.
We served in many ways: giving out hampers to the poor; singing carols at the acute care, continuing care and senior facilities; having an annual Strawberry Tea and a fall tea; bake sales and rummage sales; assisting the UCW with their teas and funeral lunches, and doing anything to raise money for the outreach ministries in our church.
We had to wear a uniform that was a modified sailor’s middy: navy and white. (See photo.) We earned merit badges, much like Girl Scouts. We even marched in our middies to the cenotaph (empty tomb) every year, where we placed a wreath for fallen soldiers on November 11. We went to CGIT camp every summer and I met friends from all over the province. I still keep in touch with several of them.
Every Christmas, we would organize and present the Sunday evening candlelight service. It was a highlight of the Christmas season for the congregation, parents, and above all, for us. We did all the readings, scriptures, lessons, and led the hymns, all by ourselves. Everything in the service was memorized because only candlelight was allowed. We used no electricity at all! I remember once having terrible stage fright at having to memorize and then speak in public. We preached about the Nativity, Christmas story and gifts of the Magi. I recall with wonder the candles reflecting in the stained-glass windows, the faces of the churchgoers, and the glorious swell of the only pipe organ for many miles around, and the walk home in the pale moon lit snow. I was so filled with the wonder of Christ’s birth.
I don’t think there is a CGIT anymore. Times change, yet my CGIT days of doing good things in our community lives within me as a wonderful remembrance of things past.
Dear Lord, thank you for the wonderful memories of Christmas past. As I think of these memories I become aware the time I spent serving you made me feel so happy and so fulfilled. Please help me find ways to serve you each day. Amen.
Interested in coming to a Candlelight Christmas Eve service at PVUMC? Join us at 5, 7 or 9 pm on Sunday, December 24.