By Julia Jones, Correspondent
On Sunday, Dec. 17, candles representing grief, courage, pain and love lit a silent room of worshipers remembering their loved ones who have died. Congregants knelt at the altar or sat in their pews, some shedding tears and some praying over their neighbors.
First United Methodist Church of Belton’s first Blue Christmas service on Sunday sought to give parishioners a place to deal with the sadness that often accompanies the holiday season. Those who have lost loved ones or are going through a hard time can find a place to express their emotions in the comfort of the church community, according to Pastor Jeff Miller.
“I thought that it would be great to have this type of service just so they can give themselves permission to not be always feeling joyful and trying to be strong and always trying to be happy, but to give themselves permission to grieve and to acknowledge that they have these types of feelings,” he said. “This time of year can be hard and I hope to bring them some comfort.”
Miller has been the church’s lead pastor for three months after working in Killeen for six years. His last parish held a Blue Christmas service annually, and he wanted to bring the same event to Belton because of the stories he’s heard since his arrival.
“Just in the short time I’ve been here, I’d been hearing some of the stories from the people here and some of the painful things that have happened like the loss of children and spouses,” Miller said.
The small congregation sang words of praise and listened to words of encouragement read from the Bible. They prayed over one another and were welcome to light a candle for their loved one or decorate an ornament for the holiday season. While it was a time of sadness, it was also a recognition of the importance of Christmas and an invitation for the community to heal together, according to Miller.
He likened Dec. 21, the darkest day of the year, to the sadness that his congregants may feel during the holiday season. The darkness on that day can be overwhelming, Miller said.
“Sometimes it can seem that way in our lives where there’s more darkness than light,” he said. “This season of Christmas is to remind us that the light of God through Christ has come into the world. God is about life. God is about light. Into your darkness, may there be light.”