Grief and sadness spurred by personal loss, or tragedies such as the shootings last week in Connecticut, may make Christmas joy difficult to find, said local clergy who plan special services to address feeling “blue.”
“It’s really a difficult time,” said the Rev. Maryellen Moore, pastor of United Methodist congregations in Portlandville and Milford. She will lead two “Blue Christmas” services Sunday morning to offer time to meditate, pray and light a candle to recognize emotional pain, she said.
“It’s basically a healing service,” Moore said.
The Rev. Randy Palada said he will lead a special service at the First Baptist Church in Oneonta on Friday night.
“The holidays can be difficult,” Palada wrote about reasons for the service. “Despite gifts, family gatherings and Christmas carols, the season can be dark and lonely for those who struggle — from the recent death of a family member or friend, the end of marriage, loss of work, other trying change, or a tragedy, such as the Newtown shooting.”
Twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., died after a gunman broke in and opened fire Friday morning. The gunman, who had killed his mother before going to the school, committed suicide.
On Sunday, some local clergy led congregations in prayer, and that prayer effort continues, said the Rev. Cynthia L. Walton-Leavitt, pastor of the Red Door First United Presbyterian in Oneonta.
In response to inquiries about a special community service regarding the shootings, Walton-Leavitt said, she has suggested attending regularly scheduled mid-week services.
Some residents who don’t have a church home but who wish to attend a gathering because of the Newtown tragedy may find comfort in attending one of the services planned in the next week, such as a Quaker service, Walton-Leavitt said.
Clergy have shared songs and prayers, she said, and leaders have indicated that the Newtown victims and community will be in thoughts and prayers.
The names of victims were read at services in the Otsego County Lutheran Parish, the Rev. Paul Messner wrote in a memo distributed among local clergy.
Lisa Isabella, a 2012 Hartwick College graduate active in campus ministries, was a graduate of Newtown High School, he said, and she babysat for victims Jesse Lewis and Avielle Richman, and was close to slain teacher Anne Marie Murphy.
“I asked what we, from a distance, could do,” Messner wrote. “She said simply to just pray — and that some of those she’s spoken with don’t want more public displays, but want to grieve quietly and with their own faith communities and families.”
On Tuesday, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a proclamation declaring Friday as a “Day of Mourning” in Connecticut and requesting that residents statewide participate in a moment of silence at 9:30 a.m. He requested houses of worship and government buildings to ring bells 26 times at that time in honor of each life that was taken at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Messner said he is arranging for bells to be rung at St. Matthew Lutheran and Evangelical Lutheran churches at 9:30 a.m., with a 27th toll for the gunman’s mother. He also suggested parishioners and friends pause in a moment of silent prayer and to light a candle in honor of the victims.
Clergy said church services this week and Sunday include:
— 7:15 a.m. today at St Matthew Lutheran, 125 Main St., Laurens.
— Noon today at Evangelical Lutheran, 4636 State Route 28, Hartwick Seminary.
— 7 tonight at Atonement Lutheran, 1 Center St., Oneonta.
— 5:15 p.m. Thursday, a Quaker meeting in the Upper Room at the Red Door Presbyterian Church at Main Street and Walling Avenue, Oneonta. After a 45-minute service, people are invited to share “Afterthoughts.”
— 7 p.m. Friday, the First Baptist Church, 71 Chestnut St., Oneonta, will have “A Different Service of Worship for Christmas.” The service will be a quiet, meditative gathering to make time for remembering, “sharing our hurting places with God and for preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ,” Palada said. “The chapel will be filled with candles and music. Scripture, stories, prayer and candle lighting will focus our thoughts.”
— Sunday, “Blue Christmas” services at Portlandville United Methodist Church on 2878 State Route 28 at 9:15 a.m. and at Milford United Methodist Church at 85 N. Main St. at 10:45 a.m.
— 4 p.m. Sunday, a “Quaker Quiet for Christmas” in the Upper Room at the Red Door Presbyterian Church in Oneonta.