Adding light to winter's darkness
On the longest night of the year, the Connellsville Christian Church on South Pittsburgh Street will have a special service for grieving residents.
"We think of Christmas as a time of joy and fun, but for a lot of individuals it's a hard time," the Rev. Chris Stillwell said. "There are those who may have recently suffered a loss or just don't have a lot of money, so it puts a damper on the holidays.
"There are even those who may have lost someone special 20 years ago but remember them more around Christmas."
For that reason, and as a way to reach out to the community, the church will host the "The Longest Night: A Service of Hope and Comfort" at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The service will last for about an hour and will include singing, praying and lighting candles.
"We will remember and name our grief and we will lift up our grief to the One who came to ease our burdens," Stillwell said. "We will acknowledge our dependence on He who came so that we might have life and we will dare to hope again knowing that Christ comes to each of us in our greatest need, which is and always has been the true meaning of Christmas."
Stillwell said this is the first time the service will be held at the church.
"I got the idea from the pastor at my home church in Wheeling (W.Va.) who had done it," Stillwell said. "I had never heard of it before, but I thought it was a great idea."
The members of the church seem to think it's a great idea too, he added.
"They really think it's a needed thing and a way for the church to reach out to the community and to invite in those who might not otherwise have come into the church," Stillwell said.
The church also reaches out to the community in other ways throughout the year, including an annual Bible School program, and a Halloween event.
Stillwell wants to remind people that if they are feeling "emotional darkness brought on by life's circumstances or an emotional reaction to the physical darkness of the lengthening night, Christ came to scatter the darkness and to be a light to guide our way.
"Jesus Christ came into the world so each day could be a little bit lighter and a little bit brighter."
The service is open to anyone who wants to attend.