‘Christmas Mourning’ for Those Suffering Loss

Post a Comment » Written on December 20th, 2005     
Filed under: News
TOPEKA, KS (December 20, 2005)  – The couple sat down at one of the tables  outside the sanctuary and began to show others the photo albums filled  with pictures of their two adult sons who had died earlier that year in  a fire.

The husband and wife had never attended Brookwood Covenant Church, but  when they saw the notice in the Topeka newspaper, the couple knew they  needed to attend the special service held for those had suffered loss – referred to by some as the “Blue Christmas” or “Christmas Mourning” service.
Many of the people who attend the service find it helpful to stay and  visit over hot drinks and snacks as they share their stories, says  associate pastor Joan Porter. “Some years,” she notes, “people stay  longer than other years and it doesn’t seem to matter whether they know  anyone or not.”
What they do know is that the others have experienced pain and are  fellow sufferers. They know they are not alone.
Worship services around Advent and Christmas are filled with songs of  preparation and joyous carols that focus on the return of Jesus as well  as his birth. Often lost amid the celebration and promise are people who  struggle to cope with a painful past. For many of these, the birth of  Jesus can seem even more remote than the 2,000 years time span.
Liturgy can help people work through their grief in pursuit of healing,  and so some Evangelical Covenant churches have begun to hold special  services that focus on loss. Brookwood began its Christmas Mourning  service in 1996 after the congregation had experienced an unusually  large number of deaths, says Porter.
The service, which normally is held on a Sunday afternoon, has attracted  anywhere from seven to more than 20 people, she says. About 15 people  attended the Blue Christmas service held Sunday evening at the Batavia  Covenant Church in Batavia, Illinois, says interim senior pastor Michael  Murphy.
The loss doesn’t have to be related to the death of someone, he says.  People who have lost jobs or are mourning the loss of opportunities as  they have grown older also have benefited from such services.
Services normally last between 20 and 30 minutes, pastors say. Brookwood  and Batavia offer the opportunity in the service to light candles.  Brookwood has a microphone set up so that people can share about their  loss when they come forward to light a candle. A woman at Batavia read  several poems that were appropriate for the occasion.
As with the many psalms of lament in the Bible, the service also speaks  of hope. The Brookwood service included hymns that included “Christmas  Has Its Cradle” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” both of which are found  in The Covenant Hymnal: A Worshipbook.
Familiar carols also were played in the service at Batavia as reminders  of hope. “It wasn’t a grim service by any means,” says Murphy. “It was  cathartic.”
(Editor’s note: since publication of this story, we have received  feedback from several online readers, including the following from a  reader in Sedro-Woolley, Washington, who writes in part: “Older folk who  have to cope with the losses of aging, as well as people of all ages  dealing with loss, have to do so pretty much alone. I thank God for the  Covenant churches in Batavia and Topeka, which are so caringly  addressing this in their Blue Christmas services.” And, another reader  from San Luis Obispo, California, writes: “What a wonderful way to  celebrate the Christmas time – to reach out to people who for whatever  reason are sad and hurting.  That is what the Christmas Spirit of Christ  is all about. Congratulations to these churches for such innovation.”)
Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.
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