"No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey,

you are always welcome here."

BLUE CHRISTMAS

Blue Christmas, also referred to as "The Longest Night," is a day in the Advent season when Christian denominations hold a quiet and contemplative worship service as an alternative to the the more traditional holiday gatherings.  For those experiencing grief and struggling with loss, the service is a recognition of the stress, sadness and loneliness experienced by those who have loss loved ones -- family and/or friends.

The service is traditionally held on or around the longest night of the year, falling on or around December 21st, the Winter Solstice.  Opportunities for expression of grief, pain, and heartbreak are often included in the worship service as well as the opportunity to focus on the promise of hope found in Christ during the Christmas season.

Amid many of their Christmas services, many United Church of Christ congregations are honoring those mourning the loss of a loved one.

"Advent, Christmas and the New Year create opportunities for us to minister to people's spiritual, emotional, and mental well-being," said reverend Sarah Lund, U.C.C. Minister for Disabilities and mental Health Justice in December 2022.  "It's a time of the yeare where we are vulnerable to additional stress, anxieties, feeling overwhelmed, loneliness and feelings of sadness.  We may turn to coping mechanisms that are harmful to us and others.  Some people are triggered this time of year as they navigate personal histories of trauma and unresolved grief.  It's a season that calls forth the faithful witness of the church to share  messages of hope and love for people experiencing mental health challenges and their loved ones."

While congregations are preparing for the upcoming Christmas season, many are also mindful of pain in their communities and are making space in their spiritual practices for those who may be struggling.  One of the ways that UCC churches support grieving members is through the Blue Christmas Service.

"UCC Congregations are providing meaningful worship and connection by offering Blue Christmas gatherings, a time of authentic worship during Advent and Christmas that acknowledges the complex feelings this time of years brings," Lund said.  "At a Blue Christmas Service, it is OK to not be OK.  It is OK to not feel happy, jolly, or bright.  It's OK if it is not the most wonderful time of the year."

Here at St. Mark's the opportunity exists for those experiencing grief and struggling with loss.  St. Mark's worship service usually draws small, inimate groups of those mourning the loss of a loved one.