A Service of Light in the Darkness

 On Wednesday, April 15, Calvary held a Service of Light in the Darkness.  Originally scheduled for outside at the Tidal Basin, the rain invited us to reschedule in the chapel.  The goal of the service was to provide a worship experience for the many who are grieving or living with stress and uncecherry-blossoms1rtainty during these days.  With Easter upon us and everyone talking about resurrection, the darkness can seem a little darker than normal; we wanted to gather as a community to mark the pain and support each other through it.

Through familiar hymns, readings, reflections and poetry, we acknowledged the grief and pain in our lives.  Then, we each lit a candle to mark that grief, and the pastors prayed with those who wanted prayer.  Some of those who attended shared these reflections:

“I really thought that I was coming to support those in our community who had suffered recent losses, I wanted to stand in solidarity with them, having experienced loss in my own life.  But I found that once the service began, all my own unexpressed sadness and loss came spilling out, as it apparently needed to do.  It was an amazing service – I felt both in community and private, able to feel so many things that had been bottled up for so long.  Crying has been problematic for me, I went many years suppressing my darkest and saddest emotions, and it has only been since I have come to Calvary that I have felt safe enough to express my grief around any except my nearest and dearest.  So, I would say, while it was not the service I expected, it was definitely the service I needed.”

“[I came because] I thought it sounded like a great idea. There are so many in our community who have lost– especially recently– and it’s not very often that ‘safe spaces’ are provided for folks to grieve.  I loved the candles, the symbolism and the written poems, etc. in the worship folder. I wanted to remember my grandfather, as he passed away in December, but I didn’t expect to get as emotional and choked up as I did when I went to the back to light my candle and ask for prayer. It was a tender and powerful experience to do that.  There aren’t any expectations, other than just showing up and letting God’s spirit speak to you. It’s like a gift for our souls– just carving out space to sit, to listen, to reflect. It’s ok to be sad, or angry or to miss the person you’ve lost. And then, you have the opportunity, with the help of pastors if you need it, to ask God to hold your heart, and to affirm you of God’s presence.”

“I went to the Light in the Darkness service because I knew it was going to be a place where my vulnerability would be accepted.  And it was.  Amidst the dimmed lights and the beautiful music I was able to let the pain settle into my heart that so often gets covered up or pushed out.  For me, acknowledging sadness and discomfort is not something I like to do alone.  Not only do I feel like the service was a safe place to feel sad, but it was one of the most honest and real services I’ve been to at Calvary.  My hope is that more of our community will come to our next service like this and participate in supporting each other in the most sincere way possible.” 

“The service was a moment in which I allowed myself to feel sad and cry in front of others, something that I normally don’t do.  [It was also a place] to feel that it is fine to be sad, or upset, that I am not alone, that I can be joined by others in my suffering and I can join others in theirs. The whole service was fulfilling. I felt every word that was said, the reflection and the sermon, both of them told me one thing that I sometimes forget in difficult times, that no matter what, ours is a loving God that won’t leave us alone. I felt totally safe to be sad, to cry and to let myself feel what I sometimes try to leave behind when I go to church. [To others I would say:] it is a healing experience; [you] should come and not feel embarrassed . . . everyone has their own burdens and is in those moments when we feel that we belong to that community of Calvary.  I wouldn’t have thought about [providing] the tissues, I am glad that someone thought about it.  That detail shows that the service was made with love and that is also important.

Our next Service of Light in the Darkness is planned for Advent on Sunday, December 13 at 6:00 p.m.  In the meantime, if you find yourself in a place where grief or depression has become burdensome and is exhibiting itself in unhealthy behavior, please contact your pastors.  We have resources to share and know people who can help.  Most of all, we remember that we do not walk through dark days alone: our church family surrounds us.  Thanks be to God!



About Amy

Senior Pastor, The Riverside Church, New York
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