By MARTHA SMITH
Special to the Standard
NORTH KINGSTOWN – Andrew Correia recalls the pain of holidays and other family gatherings after his beloved grandmother passed away.
“After Nana died,” he says, “Christmas was never the same; it still isn’t. Many people carry that [sense of loss] with them.”
The Rev. Lori Eldredge, pastor of the North Kingstown United Methodist Church, agrees, remembering the personal devastation following the death of her sister, to whom she was extremely close.
Now Correia, director of the Cranston-Murphy Funeral Home on West Main Street in Wickford Village, and Rev. Eldredge are reaching out to others for whom this time of year is filled with more sadness than joy.
The annual Blue Christmas service is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 22. Held at the church, 450 Boston Neck Rd., it is sponsored by Cranston-Murphy which also provides refreshments for time of felllowship afterward. The event was founded some years ago by the Rev. Dennis Reardon, formerly of St. Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church, the Rev. Beverly Stenmark, then-pastor of the Methodist church and a group of lay people.
It has always been an ecumenical effort and Pastor Eldredge expects other area clergy members will be involved this year, too.
“The concept of Blue Christmas is about 16 years old,” she says. “It was part of the Whole People of God curriculum from Canada. It’s about healing, nourishing, bringing peace to the soul.”
The frivolity associated with the season is impossible to achieve for those who are grieving or overwhelmed by memories.
“We think it’s important to have an ecumenical church service for people who’ve lost loved ones,” says Correia. “The first few Christmases are especially difficult. This is a service of remembrance of loss but also of hope. It’s not flashy; it’s a quiet, peaceful time for reflection and healing.”
Rev. Eldredge adds, “It gives people a soothing alternative to the three chipmunks, Santa Claus and ‘Jingle Bells.’ People can focus on the birth of Christ, the hope that’s offered at Advent.”
The service will include subdued music that invites contemplation, readings, quiet reflection and candle lighting.
“There are moments of silence that offer an opportunity to sit with your thoughts. It flows with quiet, soft music,” she explains. “[Participants] can come and light a candle in memory of someone or something. A lot of people have lost jobs, suffered divorce” or undergone other trials.
“They can reflect on the light of Christ.”
The service will close with the singing of “Silent Night.”
“It’s very powerful,” says Rev. Eldredge, adding that the entire community is invited and there are no time requirements for when a loss was experienced. Some people attend every year. She also encourages friends and family to participate “and support those who are hurting.”
“People can come and recognize they’re not alone; there’s a community that finds Christmas difficult. This service brings them together.”For more information about Blue Christmas, call the church at 294-6832.
Martha Smith is an award-winning journalist and author. Retired, she is an independent constractor for SRIN and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .