For those who are perhaps not in the mood to celebrate at this time of year – or who may be looking for a break from the hoopla of the season – Beacon United Church offers its annual Longest Night service.
Always held Dec. 21 – the first day of winter and longest night of the year – the service draws some familiar faces and some new ones, said Rev. Sharon Lohnes, the Beacon pastor.
“There’s a core group that tends to come out every year, mostly people who are alone at Christmas,” she said.
She notes that while the holiday season is a joyous time for a lot of people, for others it’s a different story.
“It is one of the most difficult times of year for many people,” she said.
As for those who attend the service, she said, “A lot of times there’s been a death in the family within the year, but not always. I’ve had people who have lost jobs, like just before Christmas ... They were planning on celebrating Christmas and now they have no income.”
And while being alone can make this a tough time of year, she says some people – due to problems within their family – may find Christmas to be a source of stress because of the family gatherings that are so common during the holiday season.
For others, meanwhile, it’s not that anything bad has happened or that there is anything really wrong in their life.
For these people, Rev. Lohnes said, the Longest Day service is a chance to get a break from the commercialism and the hectic pace of the season and perhaps reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.
The service, which gets underway at 7 p.m., normally lasts about 40 to 45 minutes.
“It’s a very quiet service,” Rev. Lohnes said. “Scripture readings and music. We offer people an opportunity to light candles in memory of someone, whether it’s someone they’ve lost or just to light a candle for themselves as a prayer. We also do offer communion during the service, which is totally optional. If people want to, that’s wonderful.”
Past services have drawn a wide range of ages, she said. The turnout can vary from year to year.
“Here in Yarmouth, I think our smallest turnout was around a dozen,” Rev. Lohnes said. “One year we had almost 30.”