PARKERSBURG - December is truly a wonderful time of the year for most. Families are gathering for the holidays and preparing for the accompanying celebrations.
Loved ones will pass gifts around to each other and share the joy and love bundled with this holiday season. They will laugh, sing and talk; catching up on each other's lives, cracking jokes while enjoying the camaraderie that accompanies this time of year.
While some families are celebrating, laughing and rejoicing, there is a portion of the population, however, for which this time of year is one of grief, sorrow and pain.
Photo by Joe Albright
The altar at The First Christian Church is prepared for the ecumenical Longest Night service Saturday at 7 p.m. On the table are the four traditional candles that will be lit and represent Grief, Courage, Memories and Love; in front of those will be remembrance candles attendees can light for lost loved ones.
Those individuals or families will not be celebrating, nor laughing nor singing during this time. It is easy to forget about those who suffered loss in the past year or who may be going through a difficult time.
Whether these people are going through financial troubles, getting over the loss of a loved one, dealing with health issues, going through a divorce or struggling after the loss of a job, it is certain that the holidays are joyless for them during an otherwise festive season.
These people feel alone and depressed and sometimes feel as if they have nothing to live for. Some may put on a happy face and smile and say everything is all right when in actuality they are far from all right.
If You Go
* When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
* Where: The First Christian Church, 1400 Washington Ave.
* What: Ecumenical Longest Night service
Suicide rates soar this time of year as the grieving often have nowhere to go or lack anyone to share their depression with. They feel as if they alone are the only ones suffering; that no one can possibly feel the pain or grief that they feel.
For those people suffering, the Wood County Ministerial Alliance wishes you to know that you are not alone. The Alliance is holding a Longest Night ceremony at 7 p.m. Saturday at The First Christian Church, 1400 Washington Ave., for those who wish to bring their pain out in the open and discover that they are not alone or for those who wish to provide comfort to those who are in pain.
"There are people who care for you and want to help you get through this painful period in your life," said Pastor Janice Hill, member of the Wood County Ministerial Alliance.
While the event has been held in the past, this will be the first year the Wood County Ministerial Alliance has sponsored the event. Messages left with the Alliance headquarters went unanswered.
The Longest Night service is so named as it takes place on the longest night of the year, the winter solstice. This traditional Advent celebration is about helping those lost in grief or pain by providing a positive and friendly place to let all their feelings out and by doing so possibly help others in attendance also.
"I believe that it is important for these people to come together and know that God supports them and that God desires to be a helping and healing presence in the holiday season," said Sister Mollie Bauer of the Sisters of St. Joseph. "It is important that the opportunity for healing is provided and that people know about it."
There will be music and several follow-along prayers on the evening but no preaching as the focus is on reflection and healing. There will be traditional scripture readings from the Books of Psalms, Isaiah, Zephaniah, Matthew and Revelations as well as the Gospel according to Luke.
The service will be ecumenical, open to all faiths; communion will be offered but not required. There will be kneeling benches with Father Andrew and Sister Mollie from local Catholic churches available for those wishing to receive anointing prayers.
Anointing prayers prepare those who receive them for receiving healing prayers. Some people believe that they help and those wishing to take advantage of the opportunity may do so.
During this time of the service people are also welcome to come to the altar and write the name of a loved one on a note card or say the name out loud and light a candle in their honor. The cards are kept by the churches and are prayed on throughout the following year.
The alliance is sponsoring the program for those people who put on a happy face during the year and act as if everything is all right, when it really is not.
"It is often easy to forget that not everyone has a reason to celebrate the holidays or be joyful in this time of year, pain and grief can come to anyone at any time of the year regardless of when that may be," said Hill.