Hey, what better time to become a Scrooge than during a national economic meltdown.

With retailers nervously awaiting "Black Friday" this week, a University of Minnesota social science professor is spearheading a group's challenge to the Americans' annual passion for shopping that dominates the Christmas season.

"We are all bombarded with messages to buy more and bigger, and we run ourselves ragged during the holidays," said Prof. William Doherty. "This Black Friday group is a laboratory for seeking more balance in all of our lives -- something that our society sorely needs in the midst of today's challenges."

The group's Christmas wish is for others to join them in making the holiday season more for a time of reflection and resetting priorities.

Its first event, "Black Friday at Church: Feeding the Spirit on the Feast Day of Consumption," is scheduled for Friday at 10 a.m. at Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul.

The event will feature music, discussion and Twin Cities storyteller Kevin Kling.

"This is a vanguard to reclaim the season -- not as a denominational thing, but as an effort to address the cultural challenges we face," said Doherty. "And this year's economic slowdown offers an ideal time to step back and rethink our priorities."

For more information about the event: www.unityunitarian.org/BlackFriday.htm.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482