Blue Christmas

Jeremy DeBord, Jordan Lenick and the Rev. Dan Snyder stand inthe sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church where a Blue Christmas of remembrance and Hope will be held Sunday.

For the past two years, the DeBord Snyder Funeral Home has held a Remembrance Service on the first Saturday of Advent for clients whose family members or friends had died. And a neighbor, First Presbyterian Church, has held a Blue Christmas service the following day for community members who had personal losses.

This year they are collaborating. The combined Blue Christmas of Remembrance and Hope service will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday in First Presbyterian’s sanctuary, 140 E. Orange St. Guests are welcome to remain after the program for soup and refreshments.

“Last year,” said the Rev. Dan Snyder, transitional lead pastor at the church, “we realized the DeBords were doing it on Saturday and we were doing it on Sunday, and we said ‘Why not do this together? We’re trying to reach the same people.’ ”

Jeremy DeBord, owner of DeBord Snyder Funeral Home, said his father and grandfather had held remembrance services years ago, but “it sort of went away.”

He credited funeral director Jordan E. Lenick with resurrecting the service.

“She really ran with it,” he said. “The purpose is to offer continuing care to the families we’ve served.”

The funeral home mails invitations to clients who have lost loved ones in the fall.

“In our experience, about 85% of those who would be attending usually respond,” DeBord said. “The first year we had almost 75 people and last year we had about 100.”

The funeral home also creates a customized Christmas ornament with the loved one’s name.

First Presbyterian’s Blue Christmas service began in 2009.

“We just saw a need for people in the holidays to have a place to deal with grief,” Snyder said. “Not only the death of a family member or friend but the holidays have other difficulties — the expectations are so high for people to be happy and joyful and you mix that with the tragedies that happen or the struggles people face.”

One person, who asked to remain anonymous, and has attended First Presbyterian’s Blue Christmas service since it began, wrote a note to the church that read: “It is a very solemn service ... when our church can reach out to the entire community ... when they need to have God’s arms around them. It was very meaningful when I lost people in my family right before Christmas.”

Former pastor Don Hackett and his wife, Rila, created First Presbyterian’s service with the help of Candy Buckbee, who was then director of pastoral care, and Alisa Bair, who brought in artists and musicians.

“We found a liturgy that works for people to feel like they can have a Christmas-like experience, but it doesn’t have to be (overly) happy,” Snyder said. “We honor the joys and the concerns that both are welcome in the house of God. It’s become a tradition for us.”

Snyder, who is not related to nor affiliated with the DeBord Snyder Funeral Home, describes the service as quiet and contemplative.

“It will be a mixture of music and poetry and scripture,” he said. “There are four different candles. The candles will represent the four different stages of grief that we go through, so we can name it and release it.”

He said Lenick and Laura Sambrick, First Presbyterian’s current director of pastoral care, found   similarities in the two services.

“It was very easy to blend the two ideas to what I believe will be a real beautiful service this year.”

“Everybody has a different loss,” DeBord said. “It may not necessarily be a death. The purpose is this is a safe place to reflect.”