The Faithful Have Fun on New Year's Eve
Two St. Charles County churches offered New Year’s Eve alternatives for those who enjoy the spirit of the celebration without the high cost and hoopla.
A First New Year’s Eve Event
St. John’s United Church of Christ in Weldon Spring held its first New Year’s Eve Party. The cost was $15.00 per person for dining and entertainment. The meal was catered by River City Catering; the entertainment was church members providing a “night club” atmosphere, said Bob Lutz, church member and one of the organizers of the event.
No alcohol served. “We talked about it and everyone was OK with not serving alcohol,” Lutz told me. The party was advertised as a non-alcoholic event. None was served and none was to be brought in. “We sold tickets under that premise,” Lutz said.
There were 64 reservations for this party. “A lot of the people told me that they would normally just sit at home on New Year’s eve, but this gave them a chance to get out, be with friends, have a meal and entertainment, and be home before midnight,” Lutz said. The party was from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. This event was not a fundraiser and it did not use money out of the church budget.
I spoke with Patty Scheel, church member and chairperson of the Congregational Life Committee as she was decorating. Scheel opened boxes of large silver and aqua ornaments to create centerpieces. As she arranged the shiny ornaments on white linen tablecloths then added glass holders for white tea light candles, the room began to sparkle.
With a curtain, decorative marble-like columns, spotlights, and the piano, Lutz set up the stage outside the sanctuary doors for the night’s performers, which included singers, musicians and a comedian. Childcare for children 10 and under was offered. I wasn’t surprised; it is a church, after all.
Lutz told me before 10:30 a.m. worship on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, “People are already signing up for next year.” Yes, I saw him at worship since I, too, am a member of St. John’s UCC on Wolfrum Rd. My husband and I had other plans; next year, perhaps we will plan to spend New Year’s Eve at church.
An Annual New Year’s Eve Event
Unlike St. John’s first New Year’s Eve Party, New Year’s Eve Bingo at St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church in St. Charles is a tradition. For over a decade the Parish Men’s Club has run bingo on New Year’s Eve.
“We have to get a separate permit for this one night,” said Harlan Heck, member of the parish and self-described “ticket-taker” for the New Year’s Eve Bingo. St. Robert Bellarmine Church holds bingo every Friday night of the year, and the church obtains an annual permit for those events, but New Year’s Eve isn’t always on a Friday. Heck said that he expected up to 300 people by the time the evening was over.
Bingo is a major fund-raiser for this church. The church hall has Bingo machines and monitors on the walls, tables are lined up and numbered, and an orderly check-in system. Before the doors opened at 4 p.m. I chatted with Heck, as well as with Richard Vigil, chairman of New Year’s Eve Bingo, and other volunteers.
“We can’t do this without the collective wisdom of the elders,” Vigil said. He was referring to the men of the parish who have been helping to organize and run weekly bingo and then this additional evening for all these years.
Friday night bingo is a big deal here and for those who come to play. It’s different on New Year’s Eve, Heck told me, since people make larger group reservations, bringing friends or relatives. There is more fellowship and fun than the usual serious bingo playing seen on Friday nights.
There were 100 attendance prizes. Gift cards, restaurant certificates, movie passes, a leaf blower and a “wing party” for 20. “That’s 200 wings”, said Phil, who had alphabetized the prize donors and organized the prizes. There were raffles and games such as “pull-tab” that I learned about from Paul as he stacked the cards for purchase.
Bingo has its own language: For the minimum number of “sheets” ($16.00) you get in. With a colorful “dauber” which looks like a jumbo highlighter, you’re ready to play.
St. Robert Bellarmine Church kitchen and its “Bingo Kitchen Team” members had a menu with a full dinner plate for $5.50. There was also a list of ala carte items, sandwiches, soda and beer.
Bingo would be over before midnight and those attending home to celebrate. For a reasonable amount of money, it looked like a good time would be had whether you actually shouted “BINGO” anytime during the evening.
St. John’s UCC and St. Robert Bellarmine both offered events for a good time at church on New Year’s Eve.
And to that I say “Amen.”