Two Leesburg churches are uniting to offer a “Blue Christmas” community worship service for people who are experiencing sadness and loss during the holiday season.
Leesburg United Methodist Church, in partnership with Leesburg Presbyterian Church, will host the service Friday evening at 7.
“This service is really for those who right now in their life are finding that they just cannot experience the merriment of this holiday season,” said the Rev. Deborah Dodson Parsons, pastor of Leesburg Presbyterian Church. “This could be because of the loss of a loved one or the loss of a job, or it could be that Christmas simply resurfaces difficult memories.”
The Rev. Jim Wishmyer, pastor of Leesburg United Methodist Church, said, “It is intended for anyone who just finds it difficult to get through the holidays. They may look around and see others who on the outside appear joyful, and they’re feeling their sense of loss, and they’re wondering, ‘How am I going to get through this first Christmas without my [loved one]?’ ”
The idea for the service came from Wayne Reynolds, a member of Leesburg United Methodist Church. Reynolds works with the Stephen Ministry — an interdenominational program that provides one-on-one care for people who are facing emotional challenges — to train lay people to serve as caregivers. Leesburg United Methodist Church has offered a Blue Christmas service for the past two years.
“We got good reviews from people who attended,” Reynolds said. “They said it really helped them get through that period of the year.”
This year, organizers decided to invite Leesburg Presbyterian Church to participate in the service, as well, because of the close relationship between the two churches, Reynolds said. Stephen Ministers from the two Leesburg churches and Round Hill United Methodist Church are sponsoring the service.
Friday’s service is open to anyone, Wishmyer said, adding that people do not need to dress up for the service.
“It’s always difficult to walk into any church when you haven’t been for a long time, particularly because you don’t know what to expect,” he said. “I would simply say that all are welcome, and no one is asked to do anything or say anything outside what they would be comfortable doing.”
The service will include music and prayers, and Holy Communion will be offered.
“Everybody will be given a chance during the service to come up and light a candle for a person they’re feeling lonely about, or a person they have lost,” Reynolds said, adding that Stephen Ministers will also be at the service to pray individually with anyone who requests it.
During the service, Stephen Ministers will read passages from the Bible, and Parsons will talk about hope.
“We hope this more quiet and reflective service will help move folks to a place of hope,” Parsons said. “For the faithful, hope is not based on confidence in the present. Rather, it is that, no matter what the circumstances, God is working God’s will through our lives, and that often happens in totally unexpected ways.”
The Blue Christmas service will acknowledge that everyone experiences times of brokenness and darkness, Wishmyer said.
“The Christmas season is a time when we remind ourselves and proclaim to the world that the light of God’s love has come into the darkness of our world, and comes into the darkness in our lives, as well,” he said.
The Blue Christmas service will be at 7 p.m. Friday at Leesburg United Methodist Church, 107 W. Market St., Leesburg.
Barnes is a freelance writer.