Service reaches out those who've lost or separated from loved ones
It's hard to be merry
AMHERST - What's usually a time of merriment for many is often the most difficult time of the year for those who have lost or are separated from a loved one.
Someone may have lost a spouse, sibling, friend or child or they may be separated by distance or over a disagreement. They may have lost their job or just feel lonely.
It's those people Trinity-St. Stephen's United Church is reaching out to through its annual ecumenical Hard to be Merry service on Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m. the church.
"It's a service for people who feel out of synch with the standard joy and emotions of Christmas," Rev. Susan Estabrooks said. "It's not that they're necessarily unhappy, but it's more of a chance to acknowledge there are many feelings during the holiday season and to bring those out while still finding deep-seeded joy in the meaning of the season."
Estabrooks has led many such services since 1993 at the various churches she has ministered. It's not a religious service as much as a support group for people who've lost someone or are feeling blue to get together.
"It's designed for people who may have a broken relationship or lost a job or may be depressed. They may have lost a loved one or be separated for a loved one for a variety of reasons," she said. "It's an opportunity to come together as a community and an opportunity to know that God is with them no matter what's going on in their lives."
For Sandy Burke, the service was a huge help through a difficult period after the death of her son, Hal, in April 2006.
"Last year was my first Christmas without him and it was hard," Burke said. "Coming here was good in that it's nice to be with other people who have experienced the same thing that I have. My church family is very important to me, they have been very helpful."
Estabrooks said the service is a short one with a scripture reading, hymns, reflections and a candle lighting. She also emphasized it's open to the community, not just the United Church and that invitations have been extended to various community groups.
There will be refreshments following the service as well as time to talk.