calendar December 18, 2013 in Congregations, Connecting, Faith in action

Sacred Space in the Midst of Loss

The Christmas season is celebrated as a season of light, but for some people this time of year is anything but.

“There are factors in people’s lives which make the holiday season difficult:  loss of job, divorce, depression, loss of a loved one, and or trauma around the season,” says the Rev. Andrena Ingram, pastor of St. Michael’s in Germantown, where a “Blue Christmas” service has been part of the season for the last six years.

At St. Luke’s in Devon, “Blue Christmas” worship is offered “because the Christmas season can often become overwhelming for people who are struggling with grief or sadness,” says Pastor Matt Staniz.  “We want to create sacred space where the promise of Emmanuel, God with us, is clear when we most need to experience it.”

“When you’re grieving the deaths of loved ones or the loss of a job or home, or struggling with depression or other emotional stresses, every carol can weigh like a ton of bricks upon your spirit,” says Pastor Dave Heckler of St. Paul’s, Applebachsville which joins in the Quakertown ministerium’s annual community service.

“I think what people appreciate most is the space to be around others who are having a difficult time as well,” Pastor Ingram says.  “They appreciate the fact that they are ‘given permission’ to share their sadness with others, and not be judged.”

Ingram and Staniz say that the services are small but meaningful for the participants, who include regular worshippers and people from the community who are not part of the church.

Services are held throughout the season, many on the “longest night” of the year on Dec. 21. For a list of those we know about, see http://ministrylink.org/article/congregations-list-blue-christmas-services/

“Longest night” is also the night that the homeless community in Philadelphia and those that minister with them, including Welcome Church, mark another counterpoint to holiday cheer. Churches and agencies come together to hold a memorial service, for all those who have died while living on the streets. — Bob Fisher