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'Blue Christmas' service aims for hope, healing

December 20, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

BOONSBORO - Not everyone has all happy memories during what is called "the most wonderful time of the year."

Michael Wingert, a Shippensburg, Pa., man who lost his father on Christmas Day last year, was one of about 20 at Mt. Nebo United Methodist Church for Sunday evening's service dubbed "Blue Christmas."

Washington County residents were joined by guests from Pennsylvania, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., for the one-hour service in Boonsboro. The Rev. Robert G. Brennan Jr. performed the service, which is similar to ones held in Martinsburg, W.Va., and Hedgesville, W.Va.

The service is designed to offer hope and solace to those dealing with loss and depression during the holiday season.

Brennan said it's "not the most wonderful time of year" for those who may have recently lost a job or had a death in the family that "left an empty chair at the table."

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He said the service is about "moving past the tinsel."

"Some people find that doing church is very difficult this time of year. They feel like they can't get through a service without breaking down," Brennan said. "This may not be their home church, but it's a safe place to do what they need to do."

The service seemed to reach an emotional peak when those who attended walked to the front of the church to light a candle in memory of a loved one. While some walked back to their seats appearing relieved, others just broke down into tears while trying to continue singing "Silent Night."

Wingert said he found the service to be very helpful and wished he had brought family members with him

"There's something about lighting the candle that gives you peace," Wingert said.

Stacy Smith, of Maugansville, said she believes there should be more services like the one Sunday because of the number of people who struggle every year through the holidays.

"There's a lot more pain out there at Christmas than people realize. I think this reaches out for that," Smith said. "It's supposed to be a joyous time, but in some ways, it's not."

Brennan said he hopes to make "Blue Christmas" an annual service that could include other area churches.

"It's just healthy to have the opportunity to remember and shed a few tears," he said.

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