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Church offers Christmas hope for those in grief

December 22, 2007|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN - The joy of Christmas can be wrenching for people who are grieving, like Kathy King of Hagerstown, whose husband, Ken, died of colon cancer in June.

With so many people around her excited about holiday plans, King said she went into the office of Denise Staub, her friend and co-worker at Middletown High School, and cried, thinking about how she'll be alone.

Staub understands: Her husband, Calvin, died in August 2006, also of cancer.

The women's mothers also died around the same time.

King and Staub were among about 25 people at Trinity Lutheran Church in Hagerstown on Friday evening for a "Blue Christmas" service, tailored for those who are sad.

The Rev. Torben Aarsand said lonely or upset parishioners might feel alienated by services emphasizing the happiness of the season.

Other than funerals, churches usually don't acknowledge those feelings, said Aarsand, an interim pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church.

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A family whose son died in December three years ago asked Aarsand if they could light a candle around the anniversary of his death.

Aarsand thought about doing more. He heard of the "Blue Christmas" concept and investigated further, before setting up Friday's service.

It included readings and hymns, while acknowledging people who are down and dispirited.

Six candles were lighted, representing grief, courage, memories, love, hope and faith, as they relate to difficult times.

"It's comforting to know that I'm not alone," Staub said after the service. "You think the whole world is having fun except for you."

"I just feel empty inside," King said.

"The thing about Christmas is you tend to feel like you should be happy about everything," said Carol Schofield of Hagerstown, whose husband, Jim, died suddenly in 2004. "Here, you can feel blessed, but not happy."

Schofield said she's happy about the birth of Jesus Christ, but not up for a "Merry Christmas."

Jim Schofield worked at Middletown High School, with King and Staub.

King and Staub called Carol Schofield their "hope," an example of how sadness can eventually lighten.

"You still get sad," Schofield said, "but you're not sad all the time."

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