This Tuesday, Dec. 21, is the longest night of the year, the date the sun shines least in the Northern Hemisphere.
It may be symbolic of the Christmas season for people who have suffered loss, or who are stressed by the season, and by life.
St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, 1431 W. Magee, offers The Longest Night, a service for those experiencing loneliness, anxiety, stress, loss or grief during the holiday season. It begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday, and typically lasts an hour.
“We’d like the community to know we do this,” said Chris Bahnson, caring ministries coordinator at St. Mark’s.
The Longest Night has its origins in a service given on Holy Saturday, between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. At The Longest Night, people can “acknowledge their grief and pain, or simply acknowledge their stress in the season, and sit with their feelings,” Bahnson said.
It is a quiet service of readings, music and prayers, with little need for interaction. People “can go inside, and think about what they’re feeling, and how they’re experiencing the holiday, and bring that before God.”
At Christmas, many people feel “pressured to feel happy when they don’t feel happy,” Bahnson said. For whatever reasons – job loss, financial or relationship stress, a recent death or a death from long ago — they are “not as happy as our culture says they should be right now.”
Those who partake say “it’s really important to them to be able to do that,” Bahnson said, providing relief from the social situations of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, “where they have to put on a happy face.
“It’s a wonderful respite, really, to just come and sit in a dimly lit sanctuary, hear some soft music, hear a message of hope but not be asked to feel hopeful if that’s not what you’re feeling,” she said.