Blue Christmas Service  – Where you can just “be”

“I’ll be home for Christmas, You can plan on me, Please have snow and mistletoe, And presents under the tree…” While these lyrics are beautiful and poignant to some, they can be gut-wrenching and painful for others.

Christmas is a time of festive celebrations with family and friends or so commercialism has taught us to believe. The Hallmark Channel is littered with every type of movie with a happy and sappy Christmas ending.  You can’t pop down to the grocery store without hearing about Rudolph’s Red Nose, and youcan’t turn on the TV or radio without some commercial telling you to buy the perfect gift. For some, this frenzied Festivus is anything but fun. Sometimes there are no friends to buy for, no loved one returning, no presents under a tree, and no happy Hallmark ending. It can be a very hard, lonely and dark season for some.

Canadian Memorial United Church tangibly recognizes this and offers a time of refuge from the “holly and jolly”. Called ‘Blue Christmas’ the service is designed especially for those that are grieving and who are lonely this year. It’s an hour to escape the pressure to be happy in the face of holiday expectations and to just accept that they are experiencing pain and uncertainty this Christmas season.

Reverend Beth Hayward says, “We as a congregation look forward to this service every year. We are humans and humans feel everything – even if we put a brave face on. When we look at the spectrum of life and all that is in it, yes there are grand celebrations and accomplishments but there are also failures, job losses, sick loved ones, illnesses and uncertainty in our own lives. And sometimes it’s even just a gut feeling of melancholy. Blue Christmas in a way celebrates this. It acknowledges who we are and where we are going in all of the messiness that makes us human.”

Inge (last name withheld) attended Blue Christmas last year after her husband – the love of her life – died of cancer just a few short months before. The then newlywed was deep into mourning. She says, “Although I’d heard about CMUC’s Blue Christmas, I didn’t attend a service until last year. I would always make a note of the date, because my husband was living with a terminal illness, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I would want and need to escape the merriment of Christmas and sit in a safe space and be sad. Last spring it happened: my husband died and I needed a time out from all the seasonal cheer. I went alone but was joined by so many others, and without knowing or needing to know each other’s stories, we sat and let tears run down our cheeks, we remembered, we loved, we were quiet, we lit candles, and  at the end we were free to hug one another or simply slip away. I was so grateful to have a designated time and space to be blue because allowing my grief to have its moment gave me the courage and strength to move forward into the festive season. 

Six weeks ago my mother died, and I find myself here again, in that isolating fog of mourning. But I’m not actually alone, for I will go to the Blue Christmas service again, and there will be dozens and dozens of people needing this respite.  I will go and be still, and remember, and in doing so, I will be well.”

Reverend Beth says,We know that offering this time, place and safe space is so important. Every year this service grows. Some that attend are really grieving a loss, others come to have lonely hearts filled, while others are just wanting to press pause and take a big reflective breath during the season. The music is meditative and we guide this tender audience through a series of reflections. I truly believe as things just seem to ramp up every year and there is no proper time to be quiet and transparent, that everyone needs a Blue Christmas. It’s a chance to just ‘be’. To be all that is human, and to feel all of the feels, no matter what time of year.” 

Blue Christmas takes place this year on December 19 at 7:30pm. There will be a time of music, quiet reflection, and stories. The service is free and open to all.

When: Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Where: Canadian Memorial United Church (15th Avenue at Burrard Street)

Time: 7:30-8:30pm

Cost: Free to attend. 

ALL ARE WELCOME.

Connect with our Fall 2018 learning circles and on-going activities

Connect with your community throughout the week through Bible study, choir, film, serving others and more. Explore our on-going programs that are designed to welcome the person who can commit to all sessions as well as those who can drop-in even for one class. 

Tuesday Night Bible Study

Tuesday Night Bible study welcomes The Rev. Dr. Harry Maier on Nov. 6 and 13 from 7-8:30 pm. He will discuss the letters of Paul.

Location: CMUC Centre for Peace
Register: beth@canadianmemorial.org or just drop-in

Tuesday Night Bible Study with Beth wraps-up for the fall term on Nov. 20. A key part of nurturing our Christian faith is learning to wrestle with our texts. Led by Rev. Beth Hayward. No experience required.

NOTE: The 2018 Tuesday night Bible study group has ended. Watch our announcements for upcoming Bible study opportunities.

Chancel Choir

Led by our Minister of Music, Lonnie Delisle
Dates: Thursdays 7:15-9 p.m., ongoing
Location: CMUC Sanctuary
Talk to Lonnie or email lonnie@canadianmemorial.org to sign up

A mix of gospel, contemporary and traditional music. No auditions required.

Cinema Sophia

Led by Tom Little
7-10 p.m., every second Friday
Location: CMUC Centre for Peace
Limit: 25 people. Register during coffee hour or in the Main office starting Sept 16th. Please commit to attending at least 50% of films.

NOTE: Registration for Cinema Sophia is currently closed. The next opportunity to join the group will be fall 2019. Watch for announcements this summer!

More than a film-watching group, this is a chance to experience deep and moving (and sometimes funny) films, and then discuss and reflect on them among spiritual community.

ONGOING DROP-INS

Meditation Group: Tuesdays, 7:00-8:30 p.m. | Fireside Room

Learn meditation techniques, listen to spiritual readings.
Questions? Contact Sam Wyatt, sam@samwyatt.com.


Parent and Tot Group:
Thursdays, 10:00-12:00 p.m. | Great Hall

Build community and offer support and encouragement while young children play and interact.
Questions? Contact Michelle Cobban, mcobban@hotmail.com.

JUSTICE AND SERVICE

In from the Cold

Join us to serve a hot meal at First United Church on the second Friday of every month from 3:30-7:30 pm. Volunteers cook a meat or veggie stew, set-up, and serve those in need of a nourishing meal.

To get involved, contact Heather McKelvie, hdmckel@gmail.com.

StreetMeals

StreetMeals is an outreach ministry that has been supporting street-involved youth in Vancouver with a hot meal and sandwich program. StreetMeals provides food, clothes, and scholarships to street-involved youth.

To get involved, contact Joanne Hausch, jhausch@deloitte.ca.

Reconciliation Seekers

The Canadian Memorial community continues to listen and learn how we can live into the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.

To get involved, contact Hilary Kitson, hfkitson2@gmail.com.

Affirm

CMUC is part of a network of over 200 Affirming ministries across Canada. We declare in word and action that God loves and accepts people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. We are committed to working for the full inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the United Church of Canada and in society. Check out our action plan for the upcoming year here.

To get involved, contact Emily, emilyasimpson@gmail.com

An Affirming Congregation

Canadian Memorial becomes an Affirming Ministry!

On June 10, 2018 after a full year of education and reflection spread throughout worship, numerous events, and monthly display tables, Canadian Memorial voted resoundingly to become an Affirming ministry. We join St. Andrew’s Wesley as the second Affirming United Church in Vancouver and stand with over 200 Affirming United Church ministries across Canada in witnessing to the wider community that God’s love extends to everyone equally and without reserve.

Affirming ministries declare in both words and actions that God loves and accepts people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. They commit to continued education and work for justice and inclusion of all people: combating racism, sexism, homophobia and  transphobia; increasing accessibility; and challenging bias and discrimination based on appearance, culture, class, or age.

What does this mean for us? We already had an inclusive marriage policy and LGBTQ folk in the congregation and leadership, but you might notice some new language in our mission and values (check out our inclusion statement!) and more importantly new signage on our website, bulletins, and church building as we “come out” to the wider community as Affirming.  We’ll also be planning an official celebration of our Affirm status for the fall.

Our Affirm working group will be working closely with the leadership over the next year on the action plan idea prioritized by the congregation.  If you’re interested in facilitating the next part of our journey as an Affirming congregation, whether you have a little time or a lot, you’re a planner or doer, an introvert or extrovert, technophile or luddite, there is space for you!  Please contact Emily Simpson (emilyasimpson@gmail.com).

You can read more about the process and learning here.

We are so proud.