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‘Blue Christmas’ services scheduled at local churches

WORTHINGTON — Although it’s known as the merriest time of year, the Christmas season can put a lot of pressure on people to be jolly — a tall order when one is feeling more melancholy.

And with several weeks of gift exchanges, eggnog drinks and flashing lights to navigate, sometimes it helps to get a little reassurance that it’s OK not to be the life of the party.

That’s where “Blue Christmas” services may fill the bill.

“Everyone experiences losses throughout their lifetimes,” said the Rev. Dr. Daren Flinck, pastor of First United Methodist Church and Emmanuel Methodist Church, Worthington.

“It could be the loss of a loved one, of a friendship, of a relationship, even of a lifestyle because your kids are away at college — there are all kinds of things that enter into why we might feel down during the holidays.

“That’s significant during celebrations like Advent and Christmas, when all the memories we have of persons we care about come flooding back,” he continued.

“Sometimes, that can be difficult to deal with, especially when other people seem so happy.”

In considering that perspective, Flinck gained the support of church members in planning a “Blue Christmas” service as a means of reaching out to those who are suffering emotionally even as joyful carols play.

“This gives people an opportunity to process some of those feelings in a setting that specifically addresses what they’re going through,” said Flinck.

“We’ll talk about finding hope in the midst of losing dreams,” he added. “The ‘Blue Christmas’ is designed to recognize where people are in their journeys, maybe make a connection, and to remember that God provides hope.”

Similarly, First Lutheran Church will host a “Blue Christmas” service later in the month, at 6 p.m. Dec. 21.

“When my grandparents passed away, my mom went to a ‘Blue Christmas’ service and found it helpful,” said the Rev. Jeanette McCormick.

“At First Lutheran, we’ve lost several members to death this past year, and many other members have had loved ones pass away, so it was a good time to introduce this.”

McCormick stresses that the “Blue Christmas” isn’t just for those who have experienced the death of a family member, though.

“Beyond death, there are people struggling with illness, awaiting diagnoses or have seen families divided or broken,” she continued. “We want to give the space to talk about and reflect on the idea that for a lot of people, Christmas is not a happy time because there may be a loss of how Christmas used to be.

“There may be an empty chair at the table, or they worry how their celebrations will come together even as pressure exists to feel happy and excited about Christmas.”

With the help of Pam Fleming, a First Lutheran worship planner assistant, McCormick is organizing a service that will include scripture and music.

“Afterwards, we’ll have cookies and a chance for people to talk with others if they wish,” she said.

Flinck mentioned his church will offer a “memory star” ornament that will allow attendees to write down a thought or memory about whatever it is they may be struggling with.

“We’ll include readings from the Psalms, like Psalm 40, which begins, ‘I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock,’” quoted Flinck.

“The Psalms contain laments, but also recognition that God is faithful.”

It’s the hope of both Flinck and McCormick that anyone who might benefit, and not only members of their own congregations, will feel welcome to attend their churches’ “Blue Christmas” services.

“We hope this might help as people move throughout the Christmas season,” said Flinck. “It never takes away the loss, but it might help to know others are in it with you, or to acknowledge it in a way and learn to live with loss and grief.”

Summarized McCormick, “It’s advertised as ‘the most wonderful time of the year,’ but what do you do when it’s not so wonderful?

“At a ‘Blue Christmas’ service, you know other people who have the same feelings will be present.”

All are welcome to attend these local “Blue Christmas” services: First United Methodist, 408 11th St., 6 p.m. Sunday; First Lutheran, 1200 4th Ave., 6 p.m. Dec. 21; and a “Longest Night” service at American Lutheran Church, 915 Winifred St., 6:30 p.m. Dec. 20.