The Rev. Lerold W. Chase might actually ask for a lump of coal for Christmas.
It's not on his list this year. But he's looking for a new boiler, a ventilation system and some stacking chairs.
While these are not the kinds of trinkets ordinarily found under the Christmas tree, they are among the 37 items on the "Christmas Gift List" that Mr. Chase sent this year to members and friends of Central Presbyterian Church, Main Street and Jewett Parkway.
"I think it's a creative idea that invites congregations to think about Christmas giving in a little different way," said Mr. Chase, the church's senior pastor. "I'm surprised more churches don't do it."
Mr. Chase began putting out a Christmas wish-list of things the church needs after amember of his congregation asked for suggestions for giving a Christmas gift to some worthwhile organization. That was four years ago.
The first list, printed on a plain piece of paper, was greeted with "surprise and curiosity" and a few complaints "from people who saw it as another way of asking for money," he said.
But the complaints stopped after he made it clear that no one was being pressured to buy a Christmas gift for the church.
"We simply make it available as a gift suggestion. We don't expect everyone to contribute. A person confronted with the gift list should not feel guilty about not giving," Mr. Chase said.
This year's list, packaged in a bright pink cover, is presented in booklet form with each item and its estimated cost numbered "for reference, not as a priority."
Since the list was mailed two weeks ago, the church has received contributions for seven items with a total cost of about $2,000, Mr. Chase said. Individual gifts ranged from $25 to $1,000.
"Over the next six months, we will probably receive another 12 to 20 gifts, totaling several thousand dollars," he estimated.
Each gift is acknowledged in the church's weekly newsletter, "The Central Visitor."
Among the items on this year's list are a $46,000 ventilation system for the church, a $17,000 boiler for the Christian Education Building and stacking chairs that cost $50 each.
Other suggestions are a video camera, printing press, carpeting for the sanctuary and an electronic typewriter with memory.
There are also a few ideas that might not occur to most people.
For instance, the congregation has prepared a manuscript of the church's history but needs $5,000 to publish it in book form. Mr. Chase is hoping that eventually someone with an interest in history will donate the money as a gift or memorial.
"The Sunday morning bulletin (budgeted at $100 a week) or a month of telephone service (estimated at $300) are not things that people would normally think about underwriting," he said. "When they do, it takes pressure off the operating budget."
Although the gift list is distributed at Christmas time, Mr. Chase said it is used as a guide for special contributions to the church any time of the year.
When people say they want to contribute something to the church, the clergy is often unable to make specific suggestions, he said.
"With this list, we can respond immediately," he said. "But we try to encourage cash gifts because we usually have a particular model in mind."