The churches of La Cañada Flintridge are inviting members of the community, wherever they are in the city, to sing a carol and reflect during an event on Christmas Eve.
Residents will be able to hear bells tolling from the churches that have bell systems, including St. Bede the Venerable Church and St. George’s Episcopal Church, from 8:57 p.m. until 9 p.m., when they will stop to allow La Cañada Presbyterian Church to play “Silent Night” through its system.
The sound will be most audible on Foothill Boulevard, and those within earshot — whether they be out for a walk or on their front porch — are encouraged to sing along with the song or simply ponder the lyrics. Even those who are out of range of the bells’ sound are invited to take a few minutes to sing with their families at 9 p.m.
The beauty of the bells’ chorus stands to contrast with the tragedy of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Acknowledging the virus’ toll, local church leaders said they hope the brief event will light a spark of optimism in local residents as a tumultuous year nears its conclusion.
“I would think that people are really just looking for a sign of hope, a sign of people supporting one another, caring for one another,” said the Rev. Scott Peterson, pastor of Lutheran Church in the Foothills. “And that’s another one of the reasons we looked at how we can coordinate this to a community-wide [event] rather than just one single church or one single group.”
Peterson, who brought up the idea to the other local church leaders, said he was inspired by videos from Italy showing neighbors singing from their balconies. The widely viewed videos, from earlier in the pandemic, were hailed as spots of communal joy in an otherwise dismal situation.
Monsignor Antonio Cacciapuoti, pastor of St. Bede, also voiced a desire to see the members of the LCF community seek to become more empathetic as this year transitions into the next.
“[We can gain] a better humanity by seeing our fellow human beings who need our compassion and our concern,” he said. “God took the initiative to be one of us by putting himself in our shoes. … We too need to be able to put ourselves in another person’s shoes.”
Residents of any faith, as well as those who are not religious, are welcome to participate in the event. But the local pastors planning it say it gives residents an opportunity to connect with the Christian tradition.
“Even though we can’t gather in churches like we used to before COVID,” said the Rev. Chuck Osburn, associate pastor of La Cañada Presbyterian Church, “this gives the chance for the community to sense the unity that we do have in God’s love and in Christ. … I think it’s just a reflection that COVID can’t keep God from coming to us.”
Osburn added that he encourages Christians to trust that God will bring them through the pandemic’s devastation, and to use this time for self-improvement — a sentiment echoed by Cacciapuoti, a self-described optimist.
God did not cause the pandemic, he believes, though it was allowed to happen for reasons beyond mortal knowledge. But, the pastor added, God will also allow humanity to grow from the tragedy wrought by the coronavirus.
“A little more goodness in each other … is very important, especially during this time,” Cacciapuoti said. “Not just in the United States, but all over the world.
“And compassion. That’s what we need.”