The “Longest Night Service” Offers Comfort and Support
December 2023 Issue
By Mary Hope Roseneau
In the Northern Hemisphere, the longest night of the year falls on December 21. Since the Fall Equinox on September 23, nights have steadily gotten longer each day. After December 21, they will begin to get shorter again. The Winter Solstice, which in Latin means “Sun standing still,” occurs on this day, as well, at exactly 10:27 p.m. EST this year.
In the Christian church, December 21 is a day during Advent that is observed as a time of remembrance, comfort, and especially hope, during the dark days of winter. It is sometimes called “Blue Christmas,” but after Elvis’ song, most churches switched to Longest or Darkest Night.
The services feature scripture readings, candle-lighting, special music, and a chance for folks to mention loved ones who have passed away. There is a lot of hugging and passing the Kleenex boxes around, as people are encouraged to express their emotions freely.
In addition, Stephen Ministers (lay people who have been trained to work one-on-one with people experiencing grief, trauma, divorce, and other problems) will be available to help any Longest Night attendees who are overcome with emotion and need personal help.
This year the Baptist Church of Beaufort and The Parish Church of St. Helena, both in downtown Beaufort, will hold a Longest Night Service together on December 21 in the Baptist Church sanctuary at 6:00 p.m. There will be a reception with refreshments afterwards in the Green Room, which is adjacent to the Sanctuary on King Street, to give time and space for conversations.
“This service provides an opportunity for people, who find the holiday season to be difficult and lonely, to be together with others in the same situation,” said Rev. Landon Collins, Senior Pastor of the Baptist Church of Beaufort. Often the celebrations of Christmas can be upsetting to people who have lost loved ones in the previous year, and they don’t really know how to celebrate without that person with them anymore. Candles will be lit in honor or memory of loved ones, and an opportunity to grieve with others will hopefully ease the pain. Rev. Collins added, “I stand in support of people who have lost a loved one.”
As well as death, sometimes a divorce or serious illness can contribute to severe depression, and the joyous Christmas activities all around can make individuals feel alienated from others and actually feel worse.
The following statement is from a friend, Drema G. Brantley, who attended the Longest Night service after losing her husband:
“My Husband, Glenn W. Brantley, Sr., died at the age of 71 years young in January 2014. Our Church, the Baptist Church of Beaufort, was having the Longest Night Service the following December. The pastor encouraged me to come, and I am so glad our sons, Glenn and Chris, and their wives came with me. It was an emotional but wonderful service. The purpose of this service is to bring together the families who are experiencing loss and offer them pastoral care, support, and love for their loss of loved ones. I encourage other people experiencing loss to go to the service. You will be blessed.”
WHEN YOU GO
What: Longest Night Service: Music, scripture, meditation,
candle lighting, prayer, fellowship, love
Where: The Baptist Church of Beaufort
601 Charles Street, Downtown Beaufort
Along With: Clergy and members from The Parish Church of St. Helena
When: December 21, 2023, at 6:00 p.m.
Also: Reception with refreshments and conversation immediately afterwards in the Green Room
Who: Everyone is warmly invited and welcome!