PARIS, Pa. - The Paris Presbyterian Church's The Gathering Place Coffee Shop will host "A Gingerbread Heart" event at 1 p.m. Dec. 7 at the coffee shop located at 127 Steubenville Pike.
Local author Carolyn Bradley will read her children's book, "A Gingerbread Heart," and vocalist Colleen Mindzak will perform Christmas music, lead a carol sing-along and give witness.
"A Gingerbread Heart" was inspired by an ornament Bradley's son made as a small child. The construction-paper gingerbread boy became a valued part of the Bradleys' Christmas tradition.
Paris Presbyterian Church's The Gathering Place Coffee House will host a children's book reading, sing-along and craft event Dec. 7. Those involved with the planning include, from left, Cindy Richards, church secretary; Margie Zellars, church outreach director; Carolyn Bradley, author; and Colleen Mindzak, vocalist. -- Summer Wallace-Minger
"It's a great story for this time of year," said Mindzak. "A lot of people with children will be able to relate."
Bradley said her son became attached to the ornament, and she was inspired by this to write a book about how their family grew and changed through the gingerbread boy's eyes. It is illustrated with family photos.
"He made this gingerbread boy when he was 5," she said. "He brought it home and put it on the front of the tree - it always gets the best spot, every year - and it has been part of our family ever since."
It has been part of the family's Christmas tradition for decades, but not without at least one close call - when the family's live tree tipped over one year, the paper ornament almost got a dousing - so Bradley had it laminated.
"Jeff came in afterwards and said he wouldn't have been able to stand it if the gingerbread boy had been ruined," said Bradley.
Children attending the event are invited to bring a favorite pillow and stretch out on the floor. They also will be making their own gingerbread boy ornaments to hang on their own family Christmas trees. Refreshments, including gingerbread, will be served.
Mindzak will sing traditional Christmas favorites and also lead the children in attendance in a sing-along. She also will speak about her experiences growing up in the Byzantine church, especially the midnight Christmas Mass.
"It was the most wonderful time, the highlight of the year, when everyone was singing and the church bells were ringing - in the Byzantine church, there are no other instruments," said Mindzak. "It was the only time when we went to church at a different time. But I remember my mother always sleeping in church, exhausted, because she wanted to create such a perfect Christmas for us. She was tired from creating this perfect Christmas."
Mindzak said the two had paired up for the event because they were "the best of friends."
"We met in church," she said. "I was deep in prayer, in reflection, when I felt this tap, tap, tap on my shoulder. I said, 'well, God's never answered that fast,' and I looked up and there was this woman I didn't know. She said, 'you need to be up there, singing.'"
Copies of Bradley's book will be available for purchase and signing at the event. She also has written two volumes of inspirational essays, and her books are available at xlibrisbookstore.com, barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com.
To make a reservation for the event, call the church office from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at (724) 729-3450 by Dec. 3.
There is no cost and it is open to the community.
(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)