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."
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org.