Guests enjoy last year’s Christmas lunch hosted by Comer United Methodist Church in conjunction with Duncan United Methodist Church.

Comer United Methodist Church is inviting the community to its annual Christmas lunch hosted with the help of Duncan United Methodist Church.

With a slightly older congregation, Comer UMC has taken a broad definition of family —inviting any and everyone to its annual tradition.

“We are an older church in terms of the congregation,” member Carla Butler said. “Most of the kids are grown and out of the house. This has become a family tradition for us.”

Butler said the Christmas lunch started about 15 years ago when church members came together for a “family lunch” inviting those in the community who felt like they wanted company on Christmas Day or had no means to celebrate Christmas. But the lunch is not limited to just a few – everyone is invited.

“The majority of the people we serve are the elderly who either cannot afford a special lunch or its impractical,” Butler said. “Our lunch is open to anybody and it’s free.”

This will be the second year Duncan United Methodist Church has teamed up with Comer UMC.

The dinner is not pulled together at the last minute.

“We will be ready to serve 300,” Butler said. “We start planning in November. On Christmas Day we have about three or four who will show up at 4:30 a.m. to start cooking. A few more arrive about 6 a.m. to start decorating and everyone else gets there about 10 a.m.”

Butler said the Christmas Day lunch is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Comer UMC at 427 E. Church St. and tickets are available at the Alabama Department of Human Resources, The Salvation Army and the Nutrition Center at the Bud Porch Center.

“You don’t have to have a ticket to eat,” Butler said. “Those help us plan.”

At last year’s lunch Butler said the church served about 250. On this year’s menu is ham, dressing, gravy, macaroni and cheese, green beans, rolls and pound cake. The meal can be eaten at the church or carried out.

Butler said she gets more out of it than she puts into it.

“I get so much joy from it,” Butler said. “It is so rewarding. The people are so appreciative. We get hugs from people who say they wouldn’t have had a Christmas meal otherwise. They depend on us. We continue because if we stop where would they go?”

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.