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     December 12, 2018      #22-346 PB1

Sometimes Christmas hurts

By Matthew Stolle

For many people, Christmas just hurts.

So for the third straight year, Cherry Grove United Methodist Church in Spring Valley will be hosting its Blue Christmas Service for those who are not caught up in the Christmas spirit.

The service is set for 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, at the church, at 18183 160th St., Cherry Grove, in rural Spring Valley.

Now, some people might struggle with the concept: A self-selected group of unhappy people gathering under one roof to share their sadness.

But for Pastor Deanna Woodward, that’s the point: to give people permission to feel sad if they want to. For some people, it’s not Andy Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” that captures their feelings, but Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas.”

“Sometimes, when you’re grieving, you feel like you have to put on a smile,” Woodward said. “It’s a place where people have permission to feel sad. You have permission if you want to shed some tears, if you want to admit that you’re missing somebody during the holidays.”

It could be a loss of a loved one, pressure about money, health issues that you or a loved one are grappling with, or just a general sense of not being in sync with the holiday spirit.

The day on which the service is held also is not an accident, occurring as it does on the winter solstice, which is the longest night of the year.

Woodward said the idea of a Blue Christmas service originated with a church women’s group, some of whom were struggling with the loss of loved ones. Having heard of blue services elsewhere, they thought such a service might be beneficial to people here. Their first service drew 65 people.

Woodward says a Blue Christmas service has a slightly different tone: The music tends to be meditative rather than upbeat; church readings deal with themes of loss and loneliness. The service also features soloists and congregational singing.

After the service, the church offers refreshments, coffee and cookies, and an opportunity to stay and chat with others.

“Grief is generally something you have to go through rather than avoid, if you’re going to heal,” Woodward said. “So, it allows people to walk through that grief and maybe walk through it with others.”

Blue Christmas Service

What: Blue Christmas Service.

When: 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 21.

Where: Cherry Grove United Methodist Church, 18183 160th St., Cherry Grove, rural Spring Valley, Minn. 

Pastors Deanna Woodward and Donna Dempewolf will conduct the service.

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Matthew Stolle