All Saints Episcopal Church doesn’t shy away from community outreach, particularly when it serves those most in need.
The small but mighty congregation provides housing for the homeless, assists domestic violence victims, serves meals to the poor and hosts three Narcotics Anonymous groups.
Now All Saints is adding another element for those who are hurting.
At 6 p.m. Dec. 21, the church will offer its first “Blue Service,” a time to recognize that the holiday season is not a joy for everyone. Folks who are feeling depressed, sad, angry or overwhelmed can come to sing and pray in a quiet, calm atmosphere.
“Because of the media and everything going on around us, we’re forced to feel a certain way during the holidays,” says the Rev. Gary Butterworth, priest at All Saints Episcopal. “Everything is supposed to be holly and jolly. But a lot of people don’t feel that way. They’re struggling and feeling alone in what’s supposed to be a season of hope.”
Although the Blue Service is new to All Saints Episcopal, the idea came about when the economy began tanking a few years ago. Butterworth pastors many folks who are struggling with death of a loved one, depression and unemployment.
The holidays are particularly hard for these people, he says, because there’s a sense of forced merriment when they just want to be alone.
“This service is an opportunity to be able to lament their problems and talk to God in a way that we don’t normally talk to him on Sunday morning,” says Butterworth.
Subdued lighting, quiet piano music and peaceful background noise will provide ambience at the Blue Service. Participants also can interact in the service by lighting a candle for a lost loved one or other struggle.
“I want people to leave here knowing that God listens to us in our pain,” says Butterworth. “The reality is we’re human beings, and when we’re down, we want to yell. Maybe reflecting, praying, lighting a candle and offering up that pain will help their struggles go away.”
Butterworth admits that even as a priest he sometimes doesn’t like the hustle and bustle of Christmas. With so much emphasis on shopping, decorating, baking and socializing, there’s not a lot of time for the true reason of the holiday.
If you add struggles with depression, dependency or death, Christmas can be full of hurdles and hurtful memories.
“This service is a time for people to find peace,” he says. “People who are hurting need to know God is really with them in their pain, depression and sorrow. This is a time to refocus on Christ.”