Many Faiths Take Part in Holiday Giving

The spirit of giving knows few religious boundaries around Christmas--the point being illustrated well these days by Mormon, Catholic and Jewish programs in the Los Angeles area.

More than 150,000 pounds of food, mostly trucked in from Salt Lake City, was distributed this week by local leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to such groups as the Salvation Army, Union Rescue Mission, the Korean American Federation, the Pomona Valley-Inland Council of Churches and Northridge B'nai B'rith.

Stirred by the devastating effects of the 1992 riots, the Los Angeles Stake, or region, of the church began an annual shipment that Christmas to the First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles.

This week, 12,693 pounds of food was delivered by the Mormons to First AME's Pastor Cecil "Chip" Murray and the church staff.

"A lot of it will be distributed [today] to people who come to the church, and we will provide some of our young missionaries to help distribute the food," said attorney Michael J. Fairclough, president of the Los Angeles Stake, one of several involved in the food giveaways.

In a Catholic-organized program today, wrapped Christmas toys, food, clothing and gifts will be delivered to about 200 needy families with children living on Los Angeles' skid row.

Volunteers from the Cathedral parish of St. Vibiana, whose buildings have been closed for 18 months, went through its run-down neighborhood in November to register the families. Cardinal Roger M. Mahony was expected to be among the volunteers delivering gifts.

The parish's yearly Adopt-a-Family program notes any special needs, such as hot plates or microwave ovens, and the ages of needy children in order to provide a Christmas tailored for each family, according to Director William P. Baeder.

Later, on Christmas Day, about 150 traditional holiday dinners will be served to homeless families at a North Hollywood shelter by volunteers from the large Stephen S. Wise Temple atop the Sepulveda Pass.

The late afternoon dinner will be served at the Trudy and Norman Louis Valley Shelter, which provides emergency housing to homeless families for up to 90 days, job counseling, medical care and day care, among other services.

PEOPLE

Filmmaker Steven Spielberg, whose movie achievements enabled him to launch foundations aiding religious and humanitarian causes, will receive the American Jewish Committee's annual human relations award Jan. 23 in Beverly Hills. Oprah Winfrey, who portrayed Sofia in the Spielberg-directed film "The Color Purple" well before her success as a television talk show host, will be the guest speaker. With profits from the Oscar-winning "Schindler's List," Spielberg established the Righteous Persons Foundation, whose grants have included Jewish seminaries and synagogue projects.

* In his Christmas message to the nation's most populous archdiocese, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony recalled this week the "unswerving faith" and service to others of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who died Nov. 14 after months of talking openly and calmly of his impending death from cancer. At Bernardin's request, Mahony was the principal celebrant at Bernardin's funeral Mass. "I bring with me into 1997 both the holy life and the holy death of this great churchman," Mahony said.

* Pastor Rick Warren, whose Saddleback Valley Community Church in Mission Viejo is the fastest-growing congregation among the nation's Southern Baptists, has turned down an invitation to become the first president of his denomination's new North American Mission Board. The Associated Baptist Press said that Warren told the board's search committee that "God has not released me from my call to Saddleback Church." The church, founded by Warren with seven members in 1980, has grown to an average weekly attendance of 13,000 at its Sunday worship services.

CHRISTMAS

Christmas music and special holiday programs will proliferate over the next few days at Southland churches, especially on Sunday and Christmas Eve.

* Presentations on Sunday range from Bach's Magnificat in D at California Heights United Methodist Church, 3759 Orange Ave., Long Beach, in a 4 p.m. concert to works by Vivaldi, Mozart and Handel at a 4:45 p.m. concert at the Congregational Church of Christian Fellowship, 2085 S. Hobart Blvd., Los Angeles. First Baptist Church of Los Angeles, 760 S. Westmoreland Ave., will present its Festival of Lights for the 36th year at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. St. Cyril of Jerusalem Catholic Church, 15520 Ventura Blvd., Encino, will present a candlelight service at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

* On Christmas eve, Episcopal rites are expected to be overflowing at All Saints Church in Pasadena at 4 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. With that in mind, another cozier Episcopal parish, the Church of the Angels in southwest Pasadena (1100 N. Avenue 64), has suggested its 125-seat stone chapel fashioned after an 11th century English church as an alternate site for a 10:15 p.m. service Tuesday. (213) 255-3878. Also, the neo-Gothic St. John's Episcopal Church in downtown Los Angeles, at 514 W. Adams Blvd., will offer a Solemn Eucharist at 11 p.m. with music of Britten and Bach along with congregational carols and spirituals. (213) 747-6285.

* Reflecting the growing Latino presence in the Wilshire district, Immanuel Presbyterian Church will hold its 2nd annual Christmas Posada today, reenacting the biblical story of Mary and Joseph's search for a room in which to give birth to Jesus. The procession will begin at 4 p.m. behind the church at 3300 Wilshire Blvd. (213) 389-8547.

* New Mount Calvary Baptist Church in South-Central Los Angeles will present a panorama of live Nativity scenes this weekend for motorists driving past the church at 402 E. El Segundo Blvd. In eight scenes covering two blocks, church members will portray the New Testament's birth stories of Jesus from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m today, Sunday and Monday. (310) 324-0644.

DATES

When someone says "Gezuntheit" or "knock on wood" are they simply repeating a custom or giving a superstitious response? Orthodox Rabbi Yaakov Feitman of Cleveland will offer ways to tell tradition and superstition apart in a guest lecture at 8 p.m. next Saturday at Yeshiva University's Beit Midrash, 9760 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 553-4478, Ext. 285. Reservations are required.

* The Rev. Lloyd Ogilvie, who was pastor of Hollywood Presbyterian Church for 23 years before leaving in February last year to become chaplain of the U.S. Senate, will give the sermon Sunday at the 9:15 a.m. and 11 a.m. services at the Hollywood church, 1760 N. Gower St.

FINALLY

This year for the first time, more than one-third of the 284 parishes of the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese are celebrating Simbang Gabi, the Filipino pre-Christmas Masses.

The numbers of parishes adding the nine days of Masses to their Advent calendar has climbed steadily limbed. Only 18 parishes held the festive Filipino celebrations in 1988, but the number reached 90 last year and hit 100 this year, said Msgr. Loreto "Mac" Gonzales, director of the archdiocese's Filipino pastoral ministry. (310) 865-2185.

Scheduled on consecutive days in parishes within reasonable distance of one another, the "evening worship" Masses give Filipinos and other Catholics the opportunity to go each night to a different colorfully decorated parish. The series began last Sunday and will conclude Monday.

Notices may be mailed to Southern California File, c/o John Dart, L.A. Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth, CA 91311, or faxed to Religion desk (818) 772-3385. Items should arrive about three weeks before the event, except for spot news, and should include pertinent details about the people and organizations with address, phone number, date and time.

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