Shalom Mennonite Church wants to provide light and hope to people as they journey through the holiday season.
A "Longest Night" service will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 21 at Shalom Mennonite Church, 800 E. First St. in Newton
"We've been doing this service here for some time," said Rachel Miller, pastor at Shalom Mennonite Church. "...It's not a very large service, but it's probably the service where we have the most people from the community attending."
Holding the service on Dec. 21 is no coincidence.
"The service is always on the longest night — or the shortest day — of the year," Miller said, "and the purpose of the service is to provide a place for people who maybe aren't feeling so excited about the holidays."
Christmas may not be a joyful time for those experiencing grief over a loss of a loved one, for those who are separated from family or for those dealing with illnesses.
"It could do with the darkness itself and the seasonal depression that some people have; it could be just that being with friends and family and the added expectations are really stressful," Miller said. "It's a way to have a service where we can have those feelings and emotions."
The worship service will include singing, a call to worship and prayer.
"It's a service of Scripture reading, candle lighting, silence and reflection," Miller said.
Those participating will be able to light candles for their own personal reasons, and candles will also be lit for specific reasons during the service.
"We light a candle for those who are feeling fear, for those who have pain, for those who are struggling," Miller said, "and then we light a candle for hope, because this is the season of Christmas and the birth of Jesus, which brings hope."
One of the unique features of the worship service is a time of silence.
"It's just a way for people to deal with those feelings that they feel they shouldn't be having over the holidays," Miller said. "Maybe you aren't feeling pain or fear or struggling, but sometimes it's nice, in the holiday season, just to breathe. ...It's important for us to breathe and think about what's happening instead of just being frantic."
Ben Breckbill, associate pastor at Shalom Mennonite Church, will play a role in leading the "Longest Night" service.
"The beauty of the season is the difference between the darkness and the length of the night versus the promise of Christmas," Breckbill said. "I think anyone who is interested in a more sort of meditative winter experience would be welcome."
Miller said some Shalom Mennonite Church members will also facilitate the Winter Solstice Labyrinth Walk.
"It starts with people gathering in a circle," Miller said.
Luminaries light the way for participants to prayerfully make their way towards the center of the labyrinth and then retrace their steps back out again.
"It can be as long or as short as you want it to be," Miller said.
The Winter Solstice Labyrinth Walk will begin at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 21 at Prairie View, 1901 E. First St. in Newton.