Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Churches can help when you can't be jolly

The mood might seem somber at Christ Our Redeemer church on Sunday afternoon, especially for the holiday season.

Some guests will contemplate. Others will cry.

And there will be no singing Joy to the World.

The happy part of it all?

No one will be alone.

Christ Our Redeemer in Temple Terrace and at least two other churches in Hillsborough will offer special services this month for those who are grieving or who have fallen on hard times because they've lost their jobs. At what some churches are calling "Blue Christmas" services, people are given the opportunity to worship with others, without feeling pressure to smile when smiling doesn't come naturally.

"The purpose of the service is to deal with grief in a time of the year when no one wants to hear about it," said Richard Hafer, a retired pastor who will head up Christ Our Redeemer's service. "It allows (participants) to cry, to bring up grief and to deal with it rather than hide it."

About 45 people came to the church's service last year. Hafer hopes to attract 100 this year.

At Bible-Based Fellowship Church in Carrollwood, Katurah Jenkins-Hall is overseeing a series of small-group sessions called Beating the Holiday BLUES (Brokenness, Loneliness, Unforgiveness, Expectations and Sorrow).

"It's not realistic to be happy if they just lost a loved one," said Jenkins-Hall, a church member and a clinical psychologist.

This season, Jenkins-Hall expects to see holiday blues sparked not only by grief over lost loved ones, but also divorce and separation, family feuds and financial trouble, such as home foreclosures.

Hafer also anticipates plenty at his Blue Christmas service will be suffering effects of the economy.

"I expect many people will be mourning the loss of a job," he said.

Blue Christmas services can help bring hope to those who otherwise couldn't find it, said Jim Reinach, a mental health counselor in South Tampa. Holidays can be brutal emotionally by magnifying hurt that already exists, he said.

"The holidays, which were supposed to be a time of celebration and joy, instead just point out what was, or what could have been."

At Christ Our Redeemer, guests will sing pensive Christmas carols and spend time in silent prayer and contemplation. After Hafer delivers a sermon, other ministers will be available to talk with guests over light refreshments.

"Essentially, our culture is telling us this is not a time for grief," Hafer said.

But churches like Christ Our Redeemer and Bible-Based are saying it is all right to grieve.

No matter what the reason for their sadness, Reinach said, he encourages people to stay social.

"Get in touch with other people," he said. "You want to find yourself in some sort of social situation where you're able to interact with people you want to be around. Call a friend, meet somebody for a meal or go to a church service."

And if you know someone who is experiencing holiday blues, there are ways to help.

"Let them know that they are welcome and wanted," Reinach said. "To feel a connection can make a huge difference."

Jenkins-Hall agreed.

"Scripture says the strong bear the infirmities of the weak," she said. "(Now) is the time to do that."

Arleen Spenceley can be reached at (813) 269-5301 or


Looking to

beat the blues?

Blue Christmas: The service is at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, 304 Druid Hills Road, Temple Terrace. Call (813) 988-4025.

Beating the Holiday Blues: Be part of a small-group session at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, and on Dec. 17, at Bible-Based Fellowship Church, 4811 Ehrlich Road, Carrollwood. Call (813) 220-3148.

When Christmas Hurts: The service, which includes prayer, reflection and fellowship for those experiencing the holiday blues, is at 7 p.m. Dec. 16 at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, 705 Ninth St. SE, Ruskin. Refreshments will be served. Call (813) 645-1521.

Churches can help when you can't be jolly 12/04/08 [Last modified: Thursday, December 4, 2008 3:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Manhattan Casino choice causes political headache for Kriseman


    ST. PETERSBURG — Days before the mayoral primary, Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to let a Floribbean restaurant open in Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino has caused political angst within the voting bloc he can least afford to lose: the black community.

    Last week Mayor Rick Kriseman chose a Floribbean restaurant concept to fill Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino. But that decision, made days before next week's mayoral primary, has turned into a political headache for the mayor. Many residents want to see the building's next tenant better reflect its cultural significance in the black community. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  2. FSU-Bama 'almost feels like a national championship game Week 1'


    The buzz is continuing to build for next Saturday's blockbuster showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Florida State.

  3. Plan a fall vacation at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens when crowds are light


    Now that the busy summer vacation season is ending, Floridians can come out to play.

    Maria Reyna, 8, of Corpus Cristi, TX. eats chicken at the Lotus Blossom Cafe at the Chinese pavilion at Epcot in Orlando, Fla. on Thursday, August 17, 2017.  Epcot is celebrating it's 35th year as the upcoming Food and Wine Festival kicks off once again.
  4. USF spends $1.5 million to address growing demand for student counseling


    TAMPA — As Florida's universities stare down a mental health epidemic, the University of South Florida has crafted a plan it hopes will reach all students, from the one in crisis to the one who doesn't know he could use some help.

    A student crosses the University of South Florida campus in Tampa, where visits to the school's crisis center more than doubled last year, part of a spike in demand that has affected colleges across the country. The university is addressing the issue this year with $1.5 million for more "wellness coaches," counselors, online programs and staff training. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  5. PTA treasurer at Pinellas school accused of stealing $5,000


    The treasurer of the Parent-Teacher Association at a Pinellas County elementary school faces a felony fraud charge after she was accused of stealing from the organization to pay her credit card and phone bills.

    Lisa McMenamin, 50, of Tarpon Springs, is facing felony charges of scheming to defraud the Brooker Creek Elementary Parent-Teacher Association, where she served as treasurer. She is accused of stealing $5,000 to pay credit card and phone bills. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]