Gospel singers in bright fuchsia robes belted out "Go Tell It On the Mountain," a video from late Glide Memorial Church cofounder Janice Mirikitani aired and thousands of people enjoyed fellowship and a free meal at Glide's annual Christmas Day event Saturday.
The event began with the church's virtual celebration livestreamed on Facebook at 10 a.m., followed by in-person Christmas meals sponsored by the Glide Foundation. Ham, turkey and all the fixings were served in tents outside the church on Ellis Street in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood as a COVID-19 precaution. The event has been held every year since the mid-1980s.
This year's holiday season is the first for the foundation since the passing of founder Janice Mirikitani, who died in July. Mirikitani founded the organization and Glide Memorial Church along with her husband, the Rev. Cecil Williams.
"(COVID-19) has brought us closer together," said Glide Minister of Celebration Marvin K. White during the online celebration. "This room is filled with so many ancestors, so much love."
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The minister urged the online and in-person audience to "think about what the radical meaning of Christmas is to you." Wide spaces between the people in the church's pews visible in the video attested to the care taken by the church to ensure social distancing.
During the virtual event, the Glide Ensemble gospel choir sang holiday and gospel standards including "Silent Night" and "Joyful Joyful." The choir performed before a backdrop of photos of Mirikitani, and a video she recorded before her death was part of the online presentation.
Food was served after the celebration.
Glide Memorial Church opened in the city in the 1960s. The church provides social services and free meals to homeless and low-income people in the Bay Area.