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Church cancels annual Christmas dinner in St. John's

St. Thomas' Anglican Church has held a turkey dinner for the last 10 years - but logistics and volunteer-burn out got to be too much for the parish.
St. Thomas Anglican Church in St. John's will not be hosting its annual Christmas Day turkey dinner this year. (CBC)

An annual Christmas dinner at St.Thomas' Anglican Church in St. John's church has been cancelled.

According to church rector, Rev. Greg Mercer, it was a decision that did not come easy, but the dinner outgrew the parish's ability to manage it.

By last year, the number of dinners served had risen to about 500, more than half of them delivered to homes.

The church has been holding the popular turkey dinner for the last 10 years. At the first event, volunteers served dinner to more than 100 people at the church hall on Christmas Day. 

However, Mercer said logistics and volunteer burnout got to be too much for the parish.

Yet, Mercer said the dinner itself will continue in some other way. 

"We're hoping in the New Year to work with some of the other churches, probably community groups and other ministries, and collaborate our efforts and do something together," said Mercer.

Alternative plan in the works

"Our first thought was, who's going to do this," said Sister Sharon Basha of the Gathering Place.

"It has to be. It's Christmas. You know, there has to be a Christmas dinner somewhere."

When the Sisters of Mercy heard the news that the St.Thomas Christmas dinner was cancelled, they checked to see if any other organization would take it on.

When nobody else could, given the short notice, they committed.

"We said, there's no question, we have to," said Sister Charlotte Fitzpatrick.

Sisters Sharon Basha and Charlotte Fitzpatrick of the Gathering Place.

The Gathering Place is far too small to host a Christmas dinner for more than 100 people at a time, so an alternate venue had to be considered.

The Knights of Columbus signed on to host the event at their facility on St. Clare Ave. in St. John's.

Cyril Ryan has been the Christmas dinner cook at St. Thomas for many years.

He will be in charge once again, this time working in the K of C kitchen.

"We wondered what we were going to do Christmas morning ... how are we going to do it? But I guess I'll be up early, firing up the stove here" Ryan said.

While the Gathering Place Sisters admit it's all a bit overwhelming, volunteers are lining up to lend a hand, and food donations are steadily coming in.

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