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December 21, 1991|ROSANNE KEYNAN

For Los Angeles' large but scattered community of American Indians, local clergy are offering a variety of Christmas programs that will combine church traditions with Indian customs.

"In the early missionary days, there was an attitude in Christianity that Indians needed to choose between two religions," said Buddy Monahan, director of the Native American Ministry Project of the Presbytery of the Pacific. "But now we believe we can be both--we believe in Christ, but God has given us a culture we can be proud of and use in our worship."

Monahan, who is half Choctaw and half Maricopa, says that the service he will conduct Christmas week at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles will be ecumenical and incorporate many Indian concepts. "Our prayers refer to a creator in Native American terms," he said. "During the service I ask people in the congregation to share stories and hymns in their native languages."

Father Paul Ojibwy, a Catholic priest of Chippewa descent who leads a congregation at St. Joseph's Church in downtown Los Angeles, says that his Mass celebrating the Epiphany also will include ceremonies that reflect Indian traditions.

There are 15 Indian churches in the Los Angeles area, according to the American Indian Resource Directory, published by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

Here are some church services that emphasize Native American traditions:

* Ecumenical worship service followed by potluck meal, sponsored by the Native American Ministry Project, 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles. Child care provided. Chichester Chapel of the Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 3300 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. For information, call Buddy Monahan at (310) 643-5793.

* Christmas Eve services, including an "Indian Nativity" and Huron carols, 7:30 p.m. at the Native American United Methodist Church, 12111 E. Olive St. in Norwalk.

The ministry also has an Indian congregation at the Echo Park Methodist Church at 1226 N. Alvarado St., Los Angeles, where a holiday food distribution will take place today from 9 a.m. until noon for Indians with tribal identification. Worship services and a hot meal are offered at this location every Sunday at 6 p.m. For information on the food offering and regular worship services, or hot meals offered in Long Beach, Riverside and San Diego, call the Rev. Marvin Abrams at (213) 929-3710.


The Catholic Worker Community--15 volunteers who live together and operate a homeless shelter in Boyle Heights and a soup kitchen and medical clinic in downtown Los Angeles--is offering a Christmas card service for the homeless.

Cards and pens are spread out on tables at the soup kitchen. Volunteers stamp and mail the cards, which in many cases are the first contact in months or years that some of the senders have had with family and old friends, Catholic Worker Michele Wolfe said.

According to Dave McGee, a retired electrical engineer who volunteers at the soup kitchen, nearly 300 people so far have taken advantage of the service. "The mailings start out slow because we don't have any banners or advertising. People just see the table when they eat here. But word gets around."

The card table will be out today and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. The Catholic Worker Community will accept donations for cards and stamps at 632 N. Brittania St., Los Angeles 90033. For information, phone (213) 267-8789.


"Joyous Sounds of Christmas," featuring the combined choirs of Faithful St. Mark Baptist Church and Faith United Methodist Church, will showcase a variety of musical styles, including gospel, anthems, spirituals and hymns. The concerts are 6 p.m. Sunday at Faith United Methodist Church, 1713 W. 108th St., Los Angeles, and 7 p.m. Dec. 29 at Faithful St. Mark Baptist Church, 9502 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles. Phone (213) 754-8453.

Jeff Conaway, who has starred in film and Broadway versions of "Grease" and the television sitcom "Taxi," and Hollywood screen actor John Shepherd headline a Christmas musical drama at the Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena. "And You, Bethlehem" is set in the 1st Century and centers on an innkeeper and his many guests.

The curtain rises at 7:30 tonight and 6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $5. Lake Avenue Congregational Church is located at 393 N. Lake Avenue, Pasadena. For information, phone (818) 795-7221.

Cardinal Roger Mahony will lead volunteers today from several Roman Catholic parishes in distributing customized gifts of clothing and food to 300 families living in residential hotels in downtown Los Angeles.

Volunteers will depart in a fleet of pickup trucks from St. Vibiana's Cathedral and stop at nearby residential hotels where many families occupy a single room. The volunteers will drop off boxes containing food, plus clothing selected for each family member. For information, phone (213) 624-3941.

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