GREENFIELD — To those grieving, the jolliest time of year can make them feel out of place and isolated.
For several years, a local church has sought to create a space for those feelings during the Christmas season — a place to gather with others also feeling sorrow while surrounded by celebration, and in so doing, feel less alone.
Greenfield Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has an annual Service of Remembrance, typically at 6:30 p.m. on the first Friday in December.
“It’s a time of support,” said organizer Larry McGuire, an elder at the church. “It’s fellowship because we’re all dealing with someone that we’ve lost.”
McGuire works around the calendar on the service, compiling by early November a photo with birth and death dates of people being remembered so he can create a Powerpoint presentation for the service.
In the candlelit church, decorated for Christmas, low lighting and music help create an atmospher McGuire hopes is quiet, peaceful and restful. There is some congregational singing, and an opportunity to share a memory of your loved one or write it down for someone else to read, but he said there’s also freedom for those who gather to simply listen and observe.
“Each year, they find it’s a service that’s very comforting for them — to give them hope,” McGuire said, based on feedback the church has received.
A number of local churches have traditions near the close of the year that remember those who’ve died in the past year.
Sometimes those are close to All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1). For example, Trinity Park Church’s Oct. 29 service took on that theme, including listing the names of those who had died in the past year and lighting a candle in remembrance of each one. St. Michael Catholic Church gathered Nov. 2 at Park Cemetery for the annual All Souls Day Mass.
Sometimes services are during December and meant to help the remaining loved ones of the people who died — or people facing other losses. Cross of Grace Lutheran Church in New Palestine offers an annual Blue Christmas service. A description on the church website mentions not only those grieving but also people going through a divorce, couples unable to have a child, and people who’ve endured emtional trauma.
“It’s a safe place for people to feel whatever they’re feeling — and to do it in the company of other people,” lead pastor Mark Havel said leading up to the service a few years ago.
Mt. Comfort Church offers a “Longest Night” service, so named because daylight hours are at their shortest just before Christmas. Church leaders say it’s suitable for those experiencing loss of any kind this season.
“It gives people permission to grieve, to say ‘I’m hurting’ in the midst of a holly jolly season, to cry out to God,” lead pastor Ethan Maple wrote in an email. “Too often people feel like no one wants to be bothered with their pain, especially during the Christmas season, but the truth is that Christmas is a response from God to humanity’s pain. Jesus was born to be a light in the darkness and bring hope to the hopeless.”
WEEPING WITH THOSE WHO WEEP
Several churches offer support groups or services to help people experiencing loss to navigate the holiday season. These services are open to the community.
–Service of Remembrance, 6:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at Greenfield Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 23 N. East St. Refreshments follow in the church annex. Information: 317-462-6348, greenfieldchristian.org
–Blue Christmas Worship, 7 p.m. Dec. 20 at Cross of Grace Lutheran Church, 3519 S. County Road 600W, New Palestine. Those who go are also invited to a meal at 6 p.m. Information: 317-861-0977; crossofgrace.org/events (scroll down to Dec. 20 Blue Christmas Worship)
–The Longest Night, 7 p.m. Dec. 21 at Mt. Comfort Church’s Mt. Comfort campus, 3179 N. County Road 600W. Information: 317-894-8965, mtcomfortchurch.com/christmas-at-mcc