Rev. Lisa Heckman (top) of the First Presbyterian Church of Montrose and organist Martha Denkenberger (above) will conduct a ‘Blue Christmas’ service on Dec. 19.
Story by Rick Hiduk
(Originally published in the Susquehanna County Independent)
The holiday season is not full of joy for everyone. While some experience seemingly endless merriment, warmth and a sense of belonging, others experience stress, anxiety and loneliness. Expectations are high, and some people feel inadequate if they can’t afford to purchase gifts for everyone or feel like attending a party. And the ambition to make the yuletide bright may elude those who have suffered loss or illness.
“Last year and this year, there has been such need,” related Rev. Lisa Heckman of the First Presbyterian Church of Montrose, who will lead a second annual Blue Christmas service on Sunday, Dec. 19 at 3 pm. “People are hurting, and this service is to acknowledge that.”
Heckman had conducted similar services at churches where she had previously served and found her parishioners in Montrose very willing to host a Blue Christmas in their church home. There was a keen awareness that the pandemic had added a new layer of stress upon what could already be a challenging holiday.
“There can be grief for all sorts of reasons,” said Heckman, “even if just the loss of the way we live and not being able to do what we used to do.” The subdued service is geared toward those who find Christmas something to be endured rather than celebrated, she wrote in the church’s December newsletter.
Like the Sunday morning service, Blue Christmas will be held in the sanctuary but offer a simpler time of music and prayer. Organist Martha Denkenberger will play some songs specially selected to fit the theme.
One of Heckman’s favorites is “In the Bleak Midwinter,” an English poem composed in 1872 and then set to music by Gustav Holst in 1902. “How better to describe it? It’s bleak and here Christ comes.” Heckman offered.
Last year’s Blue Christmas service was well-received by a mixed group of couples and individuals. Participants shared with Heckman afterwards how important it was for them to have their pain acknowledged, to be reassured that they were not alone in their feelings and that their emotions were normal.
“They were glad they were there and appreciated that they had a place where they could cry and express what they wanted to express and that it was okay to feel what they felt,” Heckman recalled. “It’s not about the numbers to me. It’s about providing for the people in need. One of the most memorable ones that I’ve had – there were only six people there. But it was very moving.”
The First Presbyterian Church is located at 367 Church Street in Montrose and can be followed at www.fpcmontrose.org and on Facebook.