Men gather at St.. John's for Holy Week Breakfast

Mar. 29—A group of McAlester men and boys gathered at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church on Thursday as the revival of the Men's Holy Week Breakfasts continued.

The Men's Holy Week Breakfasts got underway this week for the first time since 2019 after the traditional breakfast gatherings were canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many were enthusiastic about the event's return following the long hiatus.

"I think it's great, said Bob Woolman. "It's a shame that COVID shut it down."

Men, teens and children gathered to share the early morning breakfast and to hear the accompanying message.

"It's good to bring the community together," Woolman said of the event. "It brings the younger and older ones together."

St. John's teamed with the First Presbyterian Church to present the Thursday Men's Holy Week Breakfast.

Continuing the tradition of the Holy Week Breakfast, a layman from another church delivers the message at the host church of the day.

Brad Shelton, of Lakewood Christian Church, delivered the message to those attending the breakfast at St. John's.

Shelton spoke of how Jesus washed the disciples' feet on Maundy Thursday.

"The disciples had been arguing among themselves as to which one was the greatest," Shelton said.

"When we think about the time period, people were walking everywhere, he said. "It was dirt roads and sandals."

Undoubtedly, the disciples' feet did need washing, Shelton noted, and Jesus washed their feet as an example to them of being willing to serve others.

"Jesus instructs them 'Love others as I have loved you,'" Shelton said.

"He came not to be served, but to serve.

"We will not automatically have a servant's heart," Shelton said.

He said we don't have to travel far away to do missionary work.

"We have the opportunity to serve right here in McAlester," Shelton said. We can do volunteer work, he said, presenting Shared Blessings or the Good Samaritan Outreach Men's Shelter as examples.

"Look for someone in need and help them out," Shelton said. We live in a world where pride, greed and ambition rule, he said.

"Jesus intentionally set an example," Shelton said.

Shelton presented a challenge to those in attendance.

He said as he prepared to move to McAlester about 10 years ago, he got lots of comments when he spoke of his intentions to move.

He said he predominantly heard two reactions: One from those who identified McAlester with the prison at Oklahoma State Penitentiary and the other from those who said "Oh, that's where Pete's Place is."

"We've got an opportunity to change that narrative about McAlester," he said.

"Let's change it to 'This is a community that loves to serve the Lord.'"

He asked those who were present to help bolster attendance at future Holy Week Breakfasts.

"Let's start talking about this breakfast with everybody we come in contact with throughout the year, so next year we can have more people here," he said.

Phillip Stizza, of St. John's, recalled a time during past breakfasts when the waiting line to get inside extended out the door and down the sidewalk.

The remaining 2024 Men's Holy Week Breakfasts are:

—Friday at 7 a.m., at Lakewood Christian Church. Sam Wampler, representing Life Church, is featured speaker at Lakewood.

—Saturday, starting an hour later at 8 a.m., at Central Christian Church, 920 Central Avenue, near Ninth Street and Oklahoma Avenue.

Other Men's Holy Week Breakfasts held this week included Dream City Church on Monday; Life Church, on Tuesday, and Northside Assembly of God on Wednesday.

The Men's Holy Week Breakfasts in McAlester began in 1956 and continued each year thereafter until the event's cancelation in 2020.

Bryan Johnson, another attendee at the Thursday gathering, shared in the enthusiasm about the return of the Holy Week Breakfasts.

"There are two more days," he said, referencing the breakfasts set for Friday and Saturday, then presented an invitation for others to attend.

"Come on out and enjoy some breakfast with our community," said Johnson.