Conspiracy theory

Emsworth U.P. Church members Greg and Amanda Mehalic, Dan and Erin Williams and David Rothenberg rehearse a scene representing the giving of food, flowers and clothing to the needy as alternatives to spending for more expensive gifts, all part of an “Advent Conspiracy.” Photo by Tom Steiner vfor The Citizen

Believing that Christmas can still change the world, Emsworth United Presbyterian Church has partnered with the Advent Conspiracy to celebrate the holiday by spending less, giving more, worshiping fully and loving all during this special season.

Reverend Susan M. Rothenberg, pastor of the church, said that the partnership provides the congregation with the opportunity to purchase alternative gifts to benefit non-profit groups that answer Christ's call "…to seek His presence in the 'least of these,' as urged in Matthew 25:40."

Rather than giving a gift card or meaningless gifts out of obligation, the church is committed to giving gifts that really will change the world, such as donating quality time to those in need, providing clean water, feeding the hungry and looking for ways to be more loving. Rothenberg said, "When we give presence instead of presents, the true meaning of Christmas - that God chose to dwell fully with us through the presence of Jesus Christ who was born as a poor child to poor parents in the most ordinary circumstances -- has been restored."

The church is providing opportunities for its members to purchase poinsettias for the clients of North Boroughs/Sewickley Area Meals on Wheels, eggs for families served by Northside Common Ministries Food Pantry, socks for Pittsburgh's homeless population served by Operation Safety Net, and clean drinking water for the people of Haiti via the Haiti Clean Water Project of Pittsburgh Presbytery.

The price tag attached to each alternative gift is modest -- $5.00 or less. The gift ideas are being presented to the congregation through imaginative skits during the ceremonial lighting of Advent candles at each Sunday worship until Christmas.

The Advent Conspiracy is a grassroots movement involving more than 1,000 churches in 17 countries, all participating as "co-conspirators" with projects as varied as drilling a water well for those who lack access to clean water or simply encouraging congregations to think of acts of kindness as meaningful gift options to replace traditional gifts.

Last year, through the Advent Conspiracy, $3 million was raised for relief projects that included providing clean water and medical attention in communities around the world. This year, Advent Conspiracy anticipates that individuals and churches will match last year's commitment to charitable gifts and will make a lasting impact in communities around the world.

Additional information about Advent Conspiracy is available at or by visiting the Emsworth United Presbyterian Church site at www.emsworthup

"Americans spend an average of $450 billion a year every Christmas. Just a small percentage of that total would be enough to provide clean water for everyone or feed the world's hungry people," said Rothenberg.

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