‘Longest Night’ service for all

Whether you are alone or not, grieving the loss of a loved one or not, or perhaps just overwhelmed by a chaotic holiday season, consider taking in the “Longest Night” service at Knox United Church here this Sunday (Dec. 12) at 7 p.m.
The candlelight service has been held annually for at least 15 years, noted one local resident, who has attended 14 of them. She went to her first Longest Night service (then known as “Blue Christmas”) in 1989, about three weeks after her mother passed away.
Since then, the service has become a holiday ritual and, for her, is not based on grief or other “blue” emotions.
“It’s not just for death,” said the Fort Frances woman, who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s a nice hour to take out of the Christmas run-around. It’s a peaceful time just to reflect and be quiet a little bit.
“I think people look at it and think, ‘Well, I’m already sad enough, why would I want to be more sad?’ But to tell you the truth, I never found it sad.
“It’s just so lovely and there’s lots of candles—it didn’t make me feel any worse,” she reasoned.
Rev. Marietta Marshall encouraged people from all denominations to attend the Longest Night service. She acknowledged that for whatever reason, being there is important.
“We like to extend it to the whole community,” she said. “We encourage people to come up [during the service] and light a candle, perhaps for someone they are thinking about.
“We’d like to invite people who need a quiet space,” Rev. Marshall added.
And while attendance usually hits roughly 20 people, holding the service in the large expanse of the sanctuary has its purpose.
“Some have said to me, ‘Oh, you should hold it in a smaller venue,’ but if it was me coming to the service, I just might want somewhere big so that I could sit in a far corner if I wanted to,” she reasoned.
The Longest Night service features a few prayers, some mood-appropriate hymns, and some “softer” Christmas carols. Following the service, shortbread, tea, and warm cranberry juice will be served in the church foyer.
“[The service] is user-friendly and you don’t have to be [a church-goer] to come,” Rev. Marshall remarked.