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Blue Christmas service brings comfort

December 21, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

CLEAR SPRING -- Wiping away stray tears as she sat close to her husband at a Blue Christmas service at St. Peter's Lutheran Church Sunday afternoon, Donna Gruber said she came looking for something.

And she said she felt solace in the words spoken by Dennis Whitmore, pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship, who said God tells us to let our burden go and walk with him.

"It was very comforting for us," Gruber said.

Members of St. Peter's, Donna and Gary Gruber attended the Blue Christmas service because the holidays can be difficult for those who have lost loved ones or have had other upheavals in their lives.

Donna Gruber said her father died in May. The death of Garrett "Hank" Mills, coupled with other feelings of loss, brought them to the service sponsored by the Clear Spring ministerium.

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About a dozen people showed up Sunday to light candles and place them on the altar in memory of lost loved ones. Scriptures, hymns and prayers rounded out the brief service.

"I came because the holidays are difficult for me," said Mary Beth Truax, who sat alone near the back of the small church in the heart of Clear Spring. The wedding anniversary date she shared with her late husband is around the holidays and that doesn't make it any easier.

But when the service was over, Truax said she was glad she came.

In addition to Whitmore, Pastor Elaine Swinehart of the host church participated in the ministerium service Sunday, as did the Rev. Allen Reed of St. Paul's Lutheran Church and the Rev. Charles Mackley of St. John's UCC.

Whitmore said there are about five pastors who meet monthly as the ministerium. He said he brought up the idea of a Blue Christmas service after reflecting on it for a long time.

"We are aware of what people are going through," Whitmore said.

Swinehart even said she wished there had been something like this when her father died, to help her cope with her feelings of loss and melancholy this time of year.

Sara Deal sang "The Hymn of Promise," written by a woman struggling with multiple sclerosis.

Whitmore challenged all who attended to compare their Christmas woes with what Mary and Joseph were facing on the first Christmas.

They made a four-day journey, walking on the back of a donkey. Mary was nine months pregnant, they were poor and had to stay in a cold stable, where she gave birth to Jesus, he said.

"Now, with your hearts heavy with grief, you can see the first Christmas for what it really was," Whitmore said. "Remember, people who experience the darkness know the most about the light."

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