For those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, a relationship, a job or even good health, the Christmas season can be bittersweet.
In United Methodist churches in Western PA and elsewhere, there is a growing attentiveness to the needs of people who are blue at Christmas.
Each year, more churches are creating sacred space for people living through dark times. Services referred to as Blue Christmas or Longest Night services are reflective, accepting where people really are, and holding out healing and hope.
In Western Pennsylvania, some churches will hold services of worship on the longest night of the year, Dec. 21, the Winter Solstice. Among them is First UMC in Reynoldsville, PA, where a Blue Christmas service is held on the Sunday evening before Christmas each year, said the Rev. Tom Carr. It’s scheduled for 6 p.m. on Dec. 21, which this year corresponds with The Longest Night.
“This is a service which recognizes that for many Christmas is a time of grief each year,” Carr said. “This service allows us to acknowledge our grief while hearing the hope of the gospel proclamation.”
At Calvary UMC in Acme, a Blue Christmas service is scheduled for 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 20. “This is a worship service for those who find Christmas celebration difficult, due to the loss of loved ones, loss of a job, devastating illness, general stress, or any other reason,” said the Rev. Beverly Spore. “This worship service focuses on acknowledging our grief and pain at this difficult time, reminds us that we are not alone, and that we can rely on each other and Jesus to be a source of comfort. All are welcome to attend, whether they personally feel blue, or in support of friends and relatives who are blue.”
Christ UMC in Bethel Park will hold a “Hope for the Holidays” service at 5 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 21 in the Peelor Chapel. Parish Nurse Debra Bates said a reception will follow the service and all were invited.
Other Western PA churches offered similar services earlier in December.
At Chippewa UMC, a Service of Remembrance and Hope was held for the church family and the community on Tuesday, December 9. Pastor Rod Smith said it came out of the congregation’s Grief Care ministry and included a time for people to light purple advent candles in memory of loved ones that they will miss this year due to death or separation. More than 50 candles were lit during the service. The pastor said there was also a celebration of “that Hope that we have in Jesus Christ.” Smith said there was a lot of interest from the community.
On the afternoon of Dec. 14, Greensburg First UMC offered its Blue Christmas service. New Alexandria UMC hosted a similar service presented by the local ministerium at 7 p.m. the same day.
On Wednesday, Dec. 17, Monroeville UMC offered a 6 p.m. dinner and a 7 p.m. Service of Light with prayers, scripture and music that acknowledges that God’s presence is for those who mourn and struggle.
More information on Blue Christmas/Longest Night services is available in the Resources section of the Discipleship Ministries website.
Some United Methodist counselors and pastors offer suggestions on how to help those who are feeling blue this Christmas season.