The cues to turn that frown into a smile are nonstop: “Merry Christmas!” “Happy Hanukkah!” “Ho-Ho-Ho!”
For many, though, the holidays can be a dispiriting time. Maybe they – maybe you – battle loneliness or depression, have lost a job or a loved one.
Faced with all the parties and the gifts and the caroling, those suffering often “wish the world would stop being so happy and recognize that there are brothers and sisters who are in pain,” says the Rev. Gary Butterworth, rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in Gastonia.
So Butterworth’s church is inviting those coping with sorrow, loss, pain and isolation to attend a “Blue Service” on Dec. 19.
It’s the third year All Saints has held this gathering, which features an inclusive liturgy.
“It’s the one time of the year that we get people of all faiths and denominations as well as the un-churched,” he says. “And there are lots of tears.”
Those who attend are given strips of cloth and a Sharpie pen. They’re invited to write down their pains, struggles, broken relationships, the names of those they’re remembering. During the service, they are asked to bring those strips to the Christmas manger “and give them to Jesus,” Butterworth says. The strips remain in the manger until the feast of the Epiphany in January.
In his past Blue Service sermons – he calls them meditations – Butterworth has acknowledged the pain of those who have come and then spoken of Scripture as “God’s love story with humanity, including lots of struggle, pain and joy.”
“We honor and affirm where they are,” he says, and then offer them this message: “There is hope.”
The 45-minute service is 7 p.m. at All Saints, 1201 S. New Hope Road, Gastonia.
Details here. You can also call 704-864-7201.
The Charlotte chapter of the Compassionate Friends will be there next month for those bearing a special pain: the loss of a child.
Parents, family and friends are invited to a candlelight service at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at St. Matthew Catholic Church, 8015 Ballantyne Commons Parkway. It will held in the small chapel on the Rea Road entrance.
Names of the children being remembered will be read. Those who come are invited to bring a picture.
Details: 704-315-6913 or email email@example.com.
-- Tim Funk