If you’re depressed this Christmas, celebrating the holidays might seem unthinkable. But a West Side church offers a service to help acknowledge and heal that pain.
The Blue Christmas Worship service at Canadian Memorial United Church takes place Dec. 18 and is designed for anyone who’s experienced loss or other difficulties, either recently or in years’ past. It will include singing, readings and candle lighting.
“It’s not so much a discussion group. There is a chance for people to share a bit of what losses they bring — if they choose to. Some people are more expressive that way and want to share what’s happening for them. Others use it as a contemplative time,” explained Rev. Beth Hayward, adding the idea is not unique to Canadian Memorial church. Many churches offer services acknowledging Christmas can be difficult.
“Everywhere we go Christmas music is blaring and it’s a joyous season. We were recognizing … that a lot of people we’re going through grief and carrying pain that was amplified this time of year. It was difficult [for them] to hear this bombardment of joy and good will,” Hayward said.
Those who attend may have lost a spouse or parent, are going through a divorce, or experienced abuse in their family from years ago so the holiday season isn’t a good memory.
While the name “Blue Christmas Worship” suggests sadness, Hayward stressed the goal is to provide encouragement.
“We might need to rebrand ourselves, truthfully, because the idea is it’s for people who bring sadness and grief and brokenness, but the hope and the intention of the worship is to send people away feeling they are supported, loved and upheld — that their feelings are OK.”
The service typically attracts about 10 to 30 people. Hayward said everyone is welcome whether they attend a church or not.
One member has attended the service for five years, following the death of her father.
“In that first year, it was most helpful for her as a place, when her grief was really raw, to gather with others who knew that it was OK for her to be feeling what she was feeling. Five years in, she’s still attending because she’s able to bring her own grief as a means of supporting others. She sees it as a way to pay it forward.”
Blue Christmas Worship runs from 7 to 8 p.m., Dec. 18, at Canadian Memorial United Church at 15th and Burrard.