The service will include the lighting of candles, not only in memory of those who have passed away, but also to recognize the struggles in people’s lives. (Grace Kennedy photo)

The service will include the lighting of candles, not only in memory of those who have passed away, but also to recognize the struggles in people’s lives. (Grace Kennedy photo)

‘Longest Night of the Year’ service aims to support those who find holidays difficult, emotional time

People leave Christmas service ‘much more at peace,’ says Reverend Lori Megley-Best

Filtering through cloud cover and thick windows, the sunlight cast a blue quality over the walls of the Cloverdale United Church. Using a long-necked barbecue lighter, Reverend Lori Megley-Best illuminated the small table in the chancel with innumerable tealights.

It was staged: Megley-Best was lighting the candles for a few photographs. But in the empty and quiet room, it felt solemn, thoughtful. Something perhaps akin to what the church’s Longest Night of the Year service would feel like.

The service, to be held on Dec. 21 at 6:30 p.m. this year, is a chance for people to remember that Christmas isn’t always happy.

“It’s an opportunity to name, or at least voice, that Christmas isn’t always an easy time,” Megley-Best said. “And that it’s okay not to be super happy, not to be super up, not to be super excited about Christmas.”

Sometimes called Blue Christmas, the Longest Night of the Year service has been a part of the United Church holiday season for a number years. Megley-Best has been doing the service at the Cloverdale United Church for the last five years, and has held similar services at other churches before.

The Cloverdale United Church calls it the Longest Night of the Year service because it “refers to a time when the darkness is largest,” Megley-Best said. It’s often held around the winter solstice, when the daylight hours are the shortest they’ll be all year.

The service is usually small: only about 20 people, compared to the church’s usual 70. It’s normally people from Megley-Best’s congregation, and perhaps a few of their friends who are experiencing difficulties during the holiday season. Although there have been some people from the larger community join the service, that is rare.

“Sometimes to come to that kind of a service, it’s particularly difficult anyway,” she said. “So people do really need to have some support to come to it, particuarly if they’ve never been here before.”

“People are particularly vulnerable,” she added, explaining why the service might be difficult. “And I think they’re more vulnerable at a time when everybody else seems not to be that way.”

When Megley-Best prepares for the service, she keeps those difficulties in mind.

“I think about the people that probably would come to this one in particular, for this year,” she said.

“I think about those people and I think about … what they might or want to hear, or want to experience, in the midst of all the other frivolity before Christmas.”

Generally, the service is short, Megley-Best said, including quiet music and special readings. A few Christmas carols may be sung, but they will be the more reserved selections. There will be a time for silent reflection, prayer and the lighting of the candles to symbolize “some of the difficulties people might be bringing that evening,” Megley-Best said.

In a previous year at another church, Megley-Best remembers one parishioner who came to the Longest Night of the Year Service. She had suffered a miscarriage after a number of earlier miscarriages, and came in looking “distraught,” Megley-Best said.

But, “whatever happened for her during the service, she left [seeming] much more at peace,” she said.

“When people show up, and I show up to preside, that’s God’s work touching the people that come to the service.”

For Megley-Best, that’s an important part of the Longest Night of the Year service, and something that continues to remind her of her faith-based reason to celebrate Christmas.

“For me, being a Christian, we’re celebrating the fact that God came into the world to be with us and to console us and to comfort us, and to know us better,” she said.

“And so being at that service, and seeing that happen for people in the moment, it’s a reminder for me what the true meaning of Christmas [is].”



editor@cloverdalereporter.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Christmas

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Lori Megley-Best, minister at Cloverdale United Church, holds a Christmas service for those who are greiving, suffering, or lonely during the holiday season. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Lori Megley-Best, minister at Cloverdale United Church, holds a Christmas service for those who are greiving, suffering, or lonely during the holiday season. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Just Posted

Protesters marched in support of BC Housing’s plans to build supportive housing in Hope on Dec. 4. Walking protesters followed by around a dozen vehicles made their way from district hall in Hope to the BC Housing-owned site at 650 Old Hope Princeton Way. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Hope protesters pound pavement in favour of supportive housing

Protest march follows 4-to-1 vote in council, preventing BC Housing from building 52 units in Hope

CN Rail confirmed seven empty grain cars derailed near North Bend Dec. 2 to 3 overnight (File Photo)
No danger to life or environment following overnight derailment near North Bend

Seven empty rail cars derailed overnight Wednesday, Dec. 2 near the Fraser Canyon community

An anonymous person has decorated a tree and posted a sign encouraging others to do the same on the Teapot Hill Trail, and Bill Wojtun shared the idea on Facebook. (Facebook photo)
Could Cultus Lake’s Teapot Hill become Holiday Hill this Christmas?

An anonymous person is encouraging people to decorate trees on the local trail

Information about the number of COVID-19 cases in Abbotsford and other municipalities poses a danger to the public, the Provincial Health Services Authority says. (Photo: Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News)
More city-level COVID-19 data would jeopardize public health, B.C. provincial health agency says

Agency refuses to release weekly COVID-19 case counts, citing privacy and public health concerns

RCMP don’t want to see you having your vehicle towed away after an aggressive driving infraction. (RCMP photo)
Chilliwack RCMP hand out more than 500 tickets in aggressive driving crackdown

Police say they’ll continue to focus on speeding, aggressive and distracted driving

Pickleball game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 8, 2020. B.C.’s public health restrictions for COVID-19 have been extended to adult team sports, indoors and outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
711 more COVID-19 cases detected in B.C. Friday

‘Virus is not letting up and neither can we’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Chilliwack General Hospital. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)
Chilliwack mother upset about son’s alleged suicide attempt after hospital discharge

Rhonda Clough said 34-year-old son suffering with bipolar disorder should have been kept in hospital

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Students from COVID hotspots travel to Vancouver Island for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix wears a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19, during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, August 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
PHSA bought faulty respirators; spent money on catering, renovations: Dix

Such spending included ‘unnecessary, unbudgeted renovations’ to the authority’s headquarters in Vancouver

Most Read