MARSHALL - On Christmas Eve Monday night, Christ United Presbyterian Church was temporarily without a pastor, but parishioners and guests made do for an evening of food, fellowship and worship.
"This is an annual thing we do at the church, a Christmas dinner for the public," said Aileen Rowe, who was serving punch as guests filed in for dinner.
For Aileen Rowe, it was an especially happy occasion as her daughter and son-in-law were able to come from Arizona to see again the people her daughter grew up with in the church.
Photo by Steve Browne
Guests gathered Monday night for the Christmas Eve meal at Christ United Presbyterian Church in Marshall.
"It's just to celebrate the season and be grateful for what we have," said Rowe's husband Ted.
This year, the Rev. Celeste Lasich had left not long ago and the position is yet to be filled.
"We're doing pulpit supply," said Gloria Sabin, who serves on the music and worship committee. "There are other pastors in the area who are retired, and lay preachers."
The woman who normally organized the Christmas dinner was unable to because of a family emergency, leaving Barb Springer to step into her shoes.
"This is my first year of doing this," Springer said. "I've done Esther's Kitchen for three years. This tradition has to be at least a decade old."
Many attending were church members who went to services following dinner, but not all attending were church members.
"It's something to do," said Bob VanLeeuwe, "meet new people and socialize. She (Aileen Rowe) works for me at the Avera gift shop."
Aileen Rowe laughed.
"I'm one of his lowly workers," Aileen Rowe said.
"She's one of my dedicated workers," Bob VanLeeuwe said.
VanLeeuwe and his wife Louise attend Holy Redeemer Church and go to the community dinner on Christmas Day but enjoy the fellowship of their friends who attend Christ United.
"This is probably about the sixth time we've come," Louise VanLeeuwe said.
Greg Ahmann was thankful he was able to come at all this year.
"I come to socialize with other people and go to church," Ahmann said. "Usually I'm working. I work from Tuesday to Friday, and I've got to work tomorrow."