Featured Stories, Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Metro Lutheran announces date, speaker for 2013 Annual Dinner

Tom Hegg, 2013 Metro Lutheran Annual Dinner featured speaker

The Board of Directors of Metro Lutheran recently announced that the keynote speaker at the 2013 Annual Dinner will be noted author, lecturer, and master teacher, Tom Hegg. Partnering with illustrator Warren Hanson, Hegg has written several best sellers, among them A Memory of Christmas Tea and the successful PEEF: The Christmas Bear series.

But Hegg is perhaps best known for his best seller A Cup of Christmas Tea, the heartwarming story of a young man who reluctantly pays a visit to an elderly aunt at Christmas time, only to find his holiday spirit renewed and his sense of joy restored.

Originally written in 1981 to honor the 125th anniversary of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, A Cup of Christmas Tea was so well received that Hegg decided to seek a publisher for his story. At first rejected as an unknown author of seasonal verse, Hegg persisted and, in partnership with Hanson, succeeded in selling the book to Waldman House Press. With praise from actress Helen Hayes and commentator Charles Kuralt, the book eventually wound up on The New York Times bestseller list in 1992, where it remained for three years.

Trained as an actor, Hegg says about A Cup: “I wrote it not as a book but merely as a story I would read to my congregation one time and only one time — and here we are, two million copies later. That story really gave me my second career [as a writer].”

Having earned a BFA from Carnegie Mellon, Hegg has been an actor for many years, and he says he always knew being a performer was in his future. “My dad was a restaurant owner and nightclub singer in Minneapolis for 37 years. I grew up meeting and having supper with the celebrities who played his room. No one would believe me when I told them I had just had supper with George Gobel or Stan Laurel until I showed them the autographs.”

A new book in the works

Hegg has been working as a writer for 31 years, but he says he is “most excited about some of the new stuff I’m doing now.” He is currently finishing up Last Call at Jimmy Hegg’s, a memoir about his father’s years in the restaurant business. He says the book “describes how that experience truly shaped my family and my own career as a performer.”

Tom Hegg is perhaps best known for his best seller A Cup of Christmas Tea, the heartwarming story of a young man who reluctantly pays a visit to an elderly aunt at Christmas time, only to find his holiday spirit renewed and his sense of joy restored.

During the annual dinner event in October, Hegg is expected to read A Cup of Christmas Tea, as well as perform other of his works, some of which he expects to write this summer. He will also have copies of his other books available for purchase and signing. He invites dinner guests to bring copies of his books that they may already own, and he will gladly sign them.

In its 28th year of publishing, 2013 will mark Metro Lutheran’s 26th annual dinner, a time to celebrate another year of ministry through the paper. But the event also serves a strong relational purpose.

The Rev. Michael Edwins, chairperson of the newspaper’s annual dinner committee, describes it as a homecoming of sorts. “It provides supporters an opportunity to renew friendships that they’ve made from coming to the dinner for so many years. And, of course, each year they make new friends.” And, as Edwins points out, these friendships often cross church lines: “As a member of the ELCA, I get to sit down and share a meal with someone from WELS.”

This year, the dinner will be held on Sunday, October 13, at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, 50th Street and Knox Avenue, Minneapolis. The reception will begin at 4:30 p.m., with a meal at 5:30 p.m., and a program featuring Hegg at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 per person ($15 for students), and reservations can be made by calling Jean Johansson at 612/230-3281 or sending in the reservation form on page 10 of this issue.

Susan Masters is an ELCA pastor and an ASL interpreter.

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