The service will include the lighting of candles, not only in memory of those who have passed away, but also to recognize the struggles in people’s lives. (Grace Kennedy photo)

‘Longest Night of the Year’ service aims to support those who find holidays difficult, emotional time

People leave Christmas service ‘much more at peace,’ says Reverend Lori Megley-Best

Filtering through cloud cover and thick windows, the sunlight cast a blue quality over the walls of the Cloverdale United Church. Using a long-necked barbecue lighter, Reverend Lori Megley-Best illuminated the small table in the chancel with innumerable tealights.

It was staged: Megley-Best was lighting the candles for a few photographs. But in the empty and quiet room, it felt solemn, thoughtful. Something perhaps akin to what the church’s Longest Night of the Year service would feel like.

The service, to be held on Dec. 21 at 6:30 p.m. this year, is a chance for people to remember that Christmas isn’t always happy.

“It’s an opportunity to name, or at least voice, that Christmas isn’t always an easy time,” Megley-Best said. “And that it’s okay not to be super happy, not to be super up, not to be super excited about Christmas.”

Sometimes called Blue Christmas, the Longest Night of the Year service has been a part of the United Church holiday season for a number years. Megley-Best has been doing the service at the Cloverdale United Church for the last five years, and has held similar services at other churches before.

The Cloverdale United Church calls it the Longest Night of the Year service because it “refers to a time when the darkness is largest,” Megley-Best said. It’s often held around the winter solstice, when the daylight hours are the shortest they’ll be all year.

The service is usually small: only about 20 people, compared to the church’s usual 70. It’s normally people from Megley-Best’s congregation, and perhaps a few of their friends who are experiencing difficulties during the holiday season. Although there have been some people from the larger community join the service, that is rare.

“Sometimes to come to that kind of a service, it’s particularly difficult anyway,” she said. “So people do really need to have some support to come to it, particuarly if they’ve never been here before.”

“People are particularly vulnerable,” she added, explaining why the service might be difficult. “And I think they’re more vulnerable at a time when everybody else seems not to be that way.”

When Megley-Best prepares for the service, she keeps those difficulties in mind.

“I think about the people that probably would come to this one in particular, for this year,” she said.

“I think about those people and I think about … what they might or want to hear, or want to experience, in the midst of all the other frivolity before Christmas.”

Generally, the service is short, Megley-Best said, including quiet music and special readings. A few Christmas carols may be sung, but they will be the more reserved selections. There will be a time for silent reflection, prayer and the lighting of the candles to symbolize “some of the difficulties people might be bringing that evening,” Megley-Best said.

In a previous year at another church, Megley-Best remembers one parishioner who came to the Longest Night of the Year Service. She had suffered a miscarriage after a number of earlier miscarriages, and came in looking “distraught,” Megley-Best said.

But, “whatever happened for her during the service, she left [seeming] much more at peace,” she said.

“When people show up, and I show up to preside, that’s God’s work touching the people that come to the service.”

For Megley-Best, that’s an important part of the Longest Night of the Year service, and something that continues to remind her of her faith-based reason to celebrate Christmas.

“For me, being a Christian, we’re celebrating the fact that God came into the world to be with us and to console us and to comfort us, and to know us better,” she said.

“And so being at that service, and seeing that happen for people in the moment, it’s a reminder for me what the true meaning of Christmas [is].”



editor@cloverdalereporter.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Lori Megley-Best, minister at Cloverdale United Church, holds a Christmas service for those who are greiving, suffering, or lonely during the holiday season. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Just Posted

New ‘meowyoral’ race featuring felines announced by Chilliwack animal shelter

Organizers hope the cat election will generate attention for both the shelter and municipal election

VIDEO: Education Minister talks SOGI 123 and the Chilliwack school board election

He said people are making ‘noise about side issues but student safety is important’

Chilliwack athletes win provincial titles at Cultus Lake Triathlon

Close to 700 athletes competed in several distances, with action starting at Cultus Lake Park.

Chilliwack Chiefs add defenceman Alexander Marrocco

Marrocco is the younger brother of PJ Marrocco, a forward from last spring’s RBC Cup champions.

Rally in the Valley in Chilliwack to talk stewardship

It’s an event to connect interested locals with groups making a difference with species at risk

B.C. RCMP turn to Const. Scarecrow to shock speeders into slowing down

New addition will watch over drivers from a Coquitlam median for first-of-its-kind pilot in Canada

B.C. home to 1/3 of Canada’s overdose deaths in first 3 months of the year

There were 1,036 overdose deaths in the first three months of the year, with 94 per cent accidental

B.C. candidate moves from hospice care to council race

He beat terminal cancer twice and entered hospice when he decided to run for council.

Canadian tobacco exec pushes back against vaping health concerns

A warning from Interior Health about the unknown health risks of vaping is getting a partial rebuke

Ministry of Agriculture commits $300,000 to help B.C. farmers obtain land

B.C. Land Matching Program supports access to affordable farmland for young farmers

Lower Mainland city calls for slower trains near popular beach

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said ‘it’s the least we can do’

Canadian air force short 275 pilots

Attrition outpaces recruitment and training claims Air Force

Teacher suspended after physically shushing, saying ‘shut up’ to student

Grade 5 student reported feeling ‘confused and a little scared’

Most Read