Caroling on Pomfret's Common

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Pomfret - posted Tue., Dec. 6, 2011
(L-r) Natalie Bourque, Julia, Donna and Ralph Campagna prepare for a crowd. Photos by D. Coffey.
(L-r) Natalie Bourque, Julia, Donna and Ralph Campagna prepare for a crowd. Photos by D. Coffey.

The First Congregational Church of Pomfret hosted its annual “Carols on the Commons” on Dec. 4. A bonfire lit up the clear skies in front of the church as carolers gathered round to sing. The weather was perfect for the event; it was cold and crisp, with a half moon high in the sky. Spotlights illuminated the crowd and smoke from the fire rose in the air.

“There's so much about these songs of the season and the reminders they bring of our faith and why we're celebrating the birth of Christ,” said the Rev. Thomas Crumb, pastor of the church.” This is Crumb's second year serving as pastor. The caroling event has been held for more than 10 years.

It isn't just nostalgia that draws people in, Crumb said. “In the midst of all the other good activities at this time of year, it's a way to draw the town together,” he said. “As a church, we really want to recapture our historic role in the town of Pomfret. The church used to be the center of everything.”

Originally chartered in 1713, the church was officially recognized in 1715, when the first pastor was ordained. There are currently 69 members, with a larger worshiping congregation, according to Crumb.

The carols were sung between readings from the Bible. “We grouped the carols around different themes,” Crumb said. A reading from Isaiah told of the promise of Christ's coming. There were four readings from the Gospel of Luke that told the Christmas stories of the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary, the birth of Christ, the shepherds learning of Christ's birth and their response. A reading from the Gospel of Matthew recounted the story of the Magi coming to pay Christ homage. Hymns ranged from favorite French, German and American songs to songs dating back centuries.

“In the midst of so many traditions that are tacked onto Christmas – good and wholesome and family-oriented traditions which we don't want to downplay – we don't want to lose sight of the heartbeat of it all,” said Crumb. “That's God's heartbeat.”

Ralph Campagna helped organize the event and the meal afterward. He is a member of the Praise and Worship Team, which provides music for the services at the church. A drum and organ player, Campagna called music “the universal language.”

Carole Fournier, a member of the “soup brigade” that offered eight different varieties of soup to carolers after the event, said the evening was about fellowship as well as singing. “It gets us in the spirit of the season,” she said. “It brings us together. There are a lot of hugs and best wishes going around. And it's all about Jesus.”

Judy Hansen warmed herself with a bowl of squash soup when the caroling was done. “It's a kickoff to a great season,” she said, surrounded by friends at a table. “We Norwegians come out for these cold holidays,” she said, laughing. “We're very much at home in this weather.”

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