Christmas and the holiday season are surrounded with words of cheer, the hustle and bustle of shopping, parties, non-stop activities and an assumption that most everyone is filled with hope, wonder and joy during this time. But that is not the case many times.
University Baptist Church and Forrest General Hospital Home Care & Hospice have joined forces this holiday season to help Pine Belt residents deal with some of those less-than-hopeful feelings as the groups host the annual Blue Christmas service set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18, at the church located at 3200 Arlington Loop, Hattiesburg.
Durham Harris, chaplain at Leakesville State Prison and new to the Pine Belt, will be the guest speaker.
According to Kat Kimmel, associate pastor at University Baptist Church, the holiday season can be a very lonely time for many people.
“For those who have experienced a loss – whether it be a job loss, the loss of a loved one, or some other loss – the holidays seem to amplify that,” Kimmel said. “Some are away from home, some are caring for ill family members or loved ones, and all of these circumstances change the way we understand the holiday season.
“The holidays are the time we get together with our families and those closest to us. When one of them is missing, the experience is not the same; when one of them is not who they used to be, due to illness or other circumstances, everything is changed.”
This is a service to acknowledge that the holidays can be difficult, that loss is real, that people are grieving – and to let them know they are not alone.
For some, even the church is a difficult place for many to go back to following whatever type of grief it is they are dealing with.
According to Kimmel, the church and this service is a place where people can go and don’t have to pretend. “They can honor the pain and don’t have to be something they aren’t,” she said.
This is the seventh year the church has hosted the Blue Christmas event. “We contacted FGH in 2013, asking if they would like to participate/partner with us for this service as they are in contact with many in the community who can really benefit from this service,” Kimmel said.
“We are so thankful of and supportive of the work FGH is doing, and both being in midtown Hattiesburg felt that is was a good fit.”
Kimmel explained the church practices the season of Advent – a season of waiting up to Christmas Day. “This time gives voice to the scared and lonely, to the waiting, but also to the hopeful,” she said. “The Blue Christmas service is a place to acknowledge and honor the grief and pain of loss while also speaking to the hope we have.”
The service is a community service, open to anyone who is grieving this holiday season, or who simply wants to attend.
“We have sent out postcards through FGH as well as taken to the Cancer Center and other places, trying to ge the word out that this is available for our entire community,” Kimmel said.
She explained that the service is not the same as the Hospice Memorial service. “As people come in, they will be invited to light a candle in or memory of or as prayers for loved ones,” she said.
The service will consist of music, the lighting of the Advent wreath, scripture reading, a time of prayer and a meditation by the Rev. Parvin.
Following the service, people are invited to stay for a chili supper where they can connect with others and be heard, according to Kimmel.
“This is a service tailored to the grief people experience especially during the holiday season, but we are aware that grief comes at different times and in different spaces,” she said. “UBC, as well as FGH, hope to offer support to those who are hurting anytime of the year.”