With the holidays approaching, activity is buzzing at the First Congregational Church:
Saturday, December 21, the Winter Solstice, is the longest night of the year. But for those who are unable to share Christmas joy due to loneliness, illness or some other form of travail, it can be a long, long night in a different sense.
For this reason, the First Congregational Church has instituted its second annual Longest Night Service, a special program to acknowledge the difficult emotions of the season and offer a place for reconciliation and healing, on Saturday night the 21st in the church sanctuary at 8:00 p.m. There will be a contemplative service of readings and music; a time to pray individually with FCC pastors; receive a blessing; anointing with oil; and an opportunity to walk the FCC’s contemplative labyrinth. The service will last approximately 30 to 40 minutes and the labyrinth will be available until about 9:30 on the 21st.
“Christmas is a time of joy and celebration,” said FCC Senior Minister Ann Ralosky. “Yet for many of us the holiday season brings a sense of sadness and grief as well. Separation from loved ones through distance or death, personal illness, loneliness, or financial stress can make this “season of light” a time of darkness. All are welcome to our sanctuary to find comfort and hope.”
The next day, at the 10:30 a.m. Sunday FCC service, the FCC choir and guest instrumentalists will join Rev. Ralosky to present a special sermon-and-song worship experience. Interwoven throughout Rev. Ralosky’s sermon, based on the Magnificat, will be several movements from the Canticle of Joy by Joseph Martin. “The music is both beautiful and festive,” says Ralosky, “with lots of traditional Christmas tunes designed to move hearts into the joyful spirit of Christmas.” The choir will be joined by instruments such as the harp, trumpet, oboe, timpani, bongos and castanets. “There is something very special,” Ralosky adds, “about hearing a harp or timpani, for example, and being able to go right up to the player afterward to let your child see it up close.”
From now until the 22nd, a “Giving Tree” is standing prominently in the FCC Guild Room. Members of the congregation are choosing “gift ornaments” from the tree and shopping for the gift the ornament represents. They then wrap the gift up and bring it back by the 22nd. The objective is to make Christmas merrier for the residents of Broadway House for Continuing Care. The Newark-based organization is New Jersey’s largest HIV/AIDs nursing home. The gifts will be delivered to Broadway House on the 22nd.