View from the Pew
Churches help those for whom the season of lights is dark
For everyone who's really in the "Joy to the World" mode, there's likely another who relates to the sentiments of "Blue Christmas."
Healing the pain of a Blue Christmas
Two churches plan "Blue Christmas" programs for people for whom the holiday season is sad or painful because of loss, separation or turmoil in their lives.
Supportive scriptural readings and prayers and the company of others who have suffered is offered in a service at Waiokeola Congregational Church, 2704 Kilauea Ave. The program at 4 p.m. Dec. 16 is open to anyone interested. A reception will follow.
St. Andrew's Cathedral at Queen Emma Square will hold a service of meditation, music, candle-lighting and prayer open to all. The service at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 21 is intended to be a time of reflection, remembrance and reassurance that healing and relief from darkness in life are possible.
A couple of churches in town will reach out to people who are having a hard time at the holidays because of grief, illness or turmoil in their lives. Their "Blue Christmas" services are not to encourage people to wallow in sadness, so no, they won't be singing that dreary song of the same name.
The services aim to comfort, provide quiet reflection and encourage sharing feelings and memories rather than suppressing them.
"The whole concept, for people who have experienced some kind of loss in the past year, death of a loved one, separation like divorce or have lost a job, is to affirm the feelings of loss and to say it's perfectly normal to have those feelings," said the Rev. Chris Eng, pastor of Waiokeola Congregational Church. "Those feelings aren't suddenly going to go away."
Eng started a "Blue Christmas" service in 2005, based on a model used in churches throughout the United States.
St. Andrew's Cathedral will start a similar observance this year, giving people "a chance to look with gentle eyes at the holidays," said John Renke, new music minister at the downtown Episcopal cathedral.
"It's a bittersweet time of year for a lot of people," Renke said. "As we get close to the holidays, a lot of stuff comes up. It's not the Christmas we envision. We're trying to reach people for whom it's a difficult time." The church has sent letters about the service to caregivers, nursing homes and clergy of different denominations "inviting the people who carry the weight of people's lives" and encouraging them to bring along someone needy. There will be prayers and scriptural readings and "quieter carols -- more 'Silent Night' than 'Joy to the World,'" said Renke.
A candle-lighting ritual will give each participant a chance "to offer up what's heavy in your life, whatever loss or burden you bear," said Renke.
People are encouraged to share their feelings, said Eng, and that concept is fostered in the grief support group that meets twice a month at the Kahala church.
"We focus on the degree to which someone can express their feelings," said the pastor. "Sometimes it's shock, denial, disbelief. There may be some anger or hurt. Sometimes we don't arrive at the final stage of acceptance. It's OK if it's taking a long time.
"If you can identify and express those feelings, you are on the way to resolve the feelings," said Eng.
This year he will include a new element, his denomination's healing service, which involves anointing with oil and laying on of hands for people who seek physical, mental, emotional or spiritual healing.
People who seek comfort at "Blue Christmas" really ought to meet Dorothy Wright, a Waiokeola member. She attended the service two years ago, reminiscing tearfully about her husband of many years who died that year. She will be there again this year in support of first-timers.
She is in a group that changed the name of their grief support group to New Beginnings. She is in the Monday Morning Singers, former choir members who enjoy a little informal four-part harmony together. This year, Wright wrote the script for the church pageant, which centers around famous artists' depictions of the Christmas story.
"I remember Arthur with all my heart," Wright said of her husband. "He would like me to be doing what I am doing."
"It was all I could do to get up and get out" when she first forced herself to attend the pastor's tai chi class two years ago.
"You don't spend these blue times alone," is Wright's wisdom. "You kind of have to put yourself out there. You can't wait for someone to call."