Christmas comes but once a year, and that’s too often for some people, especially those dealing with a loss during the holidays.
For them, the decorations and songs, family meals and visits, the celebration and church services can bring on the blues. With that in mind, a special worship service was developed for people whose Christmas isn’t all that merry, said Pastor James Thyren of the First United Presbyterian Church, West Pittston.
He will participate in the Blue Christmas/Longest Night worship service on Saturday at St. Cecilia’s Church in Exeter.
The service coincides with the winter solstice, when daylight is at a minimum as the seasons change. “It may be the hardest night for some folks,” Thyren said.
Locally, the ecumenical service has been held for a few years and probably 10 years nationwide. The reason being that “the gaiety of the season is difficult to handle” for someone whose lost a loved one or job, dealing with a divorce or separation or suffering an illness or disease, Thyren explained.
The service lasts from 45 minutes to an hour and is open to anyone. Adults mainly show up and no more than 25 people have attended at one time, he added.
Some carols are sung. Advent candles are lit. There are readings from both the Old and New testaments and meditation by one of the pastors.
Participating with Thyren are Pastor David Brague of the Second Presbyterian Church, Pittston, and Pastor David Walker of the First United Methodist Church, West Pittston.
For the most part, the people worship individually. Printed prayers with responses are provided. Some people have attended all the services.
“There is a little bit of solidarity,” Thyren said.
Toward the end of the service, they can share their sorrow.
“It’s a symbolic ritual of tears,” Thyren said. “There’s a bowl of salt water and a small bowl of salt. Those who are inclined can add salt to the bowl.”
He’s heard some comments that service was helpful. “Some folks, they miss being able to be part of a typical Christmas Eve service. This gives them a chance to hear some of the songs of the season,” Thyren said.
The purpose of service rooted in faith is to provide some comfort and reach out to people “in a vulnerable place,” he said.