Fox Chapel area pastors say slow down, enjoy holidays

The Rev. Connie Hughes, Assistant Rector at the Christ Church in Fox Chapel.
The Rev. Connie Hughes, Assistant Rector at the Christ Church in Fox Chapel.
Photo by Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Tawnya Panizzi
| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

With the holiday rush reaching its peak this week, local pastors are reminding residents to exhale.

The expectation of perfection is too much to bear, said the Rev. Connie Hughes, interim pastor at Christ Church Fox Chapel.

“We want to have the perfect gift, the Martha Stewart décor, and the pressure builds,” said Hughes, who worked as a counselor before being ordained.

“I'm very aware of how hard a season this is for many people,” she said. “The expectations that we carry contrast sharply with issues of estrangement and loss that rear their ugly head this time of year.”

Hughes advises people to first realize that their feelings are appropriate and then let themselves off the hook so they're able to enjoy.

“There were some real dark realities the first Christmas too and things worked out,” she said.

Leave the hustle and bustle behind, said Chris Taylor, senior minister at Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church in Fox Chapel.

“The season is about the call to peace and to be peacemakers,” he said.

Taylor reminds people that this season, and throughout the year, the willingness “to come underneath others” is what matters, “not lording over them.”

“We should seek to serve,” he said.

The Rev. Michael Decewicz, pastor at St. Juan Diego Parish in Sharpsburg, encourages parishioners not to get caught up in tangible preparations but instead be in tune to the journey through Advent.

“It invites us to take advantage of the time of waiting to prepare ourselves to welcome a new Christ in our midst,” he said. “It challenges us to be honest with ourselves and truly open to be receptive to the love and presence of Jesus.”

Decewicz suggests that leaving behind the anxiety of shopping, baking and decorating allows an open space “where Christ can dwell.”

The Rev. Joe Keenan, pastor at Saint Pio of Pietrelcina Parish in Blawnox, said he also is trying to urge people to slow down this holiday season and leave the commercial trappings behind.

In his sermons each week leading to Christmas, Keenan tells people to appreciate the joy and peace that are the true meaning of the season, he said.

“I want their hearts to be open to the fulfillment of the kept promise by our God,” he said. “That is, he has given us his son.”

Further, Keenan asks parishioners to carry that thought so “that the Lord is part of who they are.

“That is the gift that God gives us at Christmas.”

Hughes said she preaches acceptance to her parishioners and that there is no better example than the first Christmas. Typically, she said, the birth of a king comes with fanfare and rituals.

“Jesus' birth wasn't like that at all. It was shepherds and angels that came to see him,” she said. “We need to remember that. It's good to know that with every challenge in Christmas, you know God is with you.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at

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