TOWNSEND — A light dusting of snow set a picture perfect stage for the Townsend Ecumenical Outreach (TEO) tree-lighting ceremony on the common Sunday evening.
Approximately 130 people gathered around the gazebo to sing Christmas songs and light the Gustafson tree that sits in front of the Congregational Church.
After the festivities concluded, everyone went into the church to listen to choirs from all the different congregations in town perform holiday music. Once the music concluded, everyone was invited into the community center for the TEO’s famous Hobo Stew dinner.
TEO Founder James Clish said this is “about the 16th year we (have done) the music and stew. It’s become something people look forward to. (The turnout) is excellent, the weather cooperated and the little bit of snow was very conducive to the evening.”
Linda Hatch, who serves on the TEO’s Board of Directors, said the stew is donated by the various churches, and what makes it considered “hobo is that it is all combined together in one big pot. This is the TEO’s way of saying thank you to the community, the private sector as well as local business for everything they do for us all year long. The one thing we do is change the location of the stew feed every year, with each church taking a turn.”
Members of the United Methodist Church, St. John’s Catholic Church and St. David’s Episcopal Church in Pepperell joined members of the Congregational Church in song and prayer.
The Townsend Congregational Church Handbell Choir performed “What Child is This,” and “Jesus, Our Brother Kind and Good.” The Methodist Choir, under the direction of Shirley Coit, sang “Rejoice and Sing the Good News.” The Townsend Congregational Church Senior Choir performed their version of, “What Child is This,” and a combined effort by all choirs concluded the musical evening with “I Saw Three Ships.”
Renee Fossey, director of the Congregational Church’s choirs, was thanked by interim Pastor Mark Seifried of the Congregational Church for putting the tableau together.
Fr. Shawn Allen from St. Johns Church read “The Christmas Story,” while Vicar Kathryn Ragsdale from St. David’s Episcopal Church in Pepperell read a benediction.
“It is truly an ecumenical effort,” Clish said.
The Gustafson tree is named in honor of Priscilla Gustafson and her children, William and Abigail, who were murdered two decades ago in their Townsend home. They were the family of Andrew Gustafson, a member of the Townsend Congregational Church.