From a cultural perspective, times like Christmas tend to be happy, holy festival occasions in churches with candlelight services and special music and joyous events in homes where expectation drives a spree of gift giving, beautifully decorated trees, celebratory foods and family gatherings.
But the season can also signal great loneliness for some people, especially for those who may have suffered a significant loss during the past year.
These are thoughts from the Rev. Neal Carter, pastor of Laurinburg Presbyterian, who will lead a Healing and Wholeness Service on Saturday in the chapel at the church, 600 W. Church St.
The 30-minute interactive service that begins at 5:30 p.m. is open to all in the community. A long-standing tradition at Laurinburg Presbyterian, the healing service usually attracts 10 to 15 participants, Carter said, and in past years has included folks from other churches.
A small crowd is in keeping with the service that is highly personal, quiet and meditative and happens to be one of this pastor’s favorites to lead during the church year.
“People who show up are really looking for a sense of connection with their faith,” he said this week, “A special time when people come saying, ‘I really need this time.’ These are serious seekers hurting in a way the culture sees as weakness, but in faith it is strength, just the opposite.”
A far cry from the television prototype of a healing service, this one has its special liturgy in the Presbyterian “Book of Common Worship.” As in the TV version, the minister does do the laying on of hands and does anoint with olive oil. All of this is accompanied with prayers that call on God the source of healing and wholeness, Carter said.
“We offer space for everyone to come. Some may not share their concerns openly but simply say ‘I need to be remembered.’ Some are specific. Others are general. It all depends on the person. To me that is not an issue,” he said.
A few participants are regulars, folks who always come to this service as well as one held on the Saturday before Easter. The church may be looking to expand this service in the future because of positive feedback from participants, the pastor said.
“They are young and old. All different types of folks. People with long hurts who feel they have lost their way. I have no idea why they are there. It is not really important to me why they come, just that they do.”
Carter, who is a graduate of Duke Divinity School and Princeton Theological Seminary, said as a student he did not receive instruction on how to conduct a healing service, but instead was taught to rely on the resources available in his denomination’s “Book of Common Worship.”
“We were taught to depend on the great liturgies of the past and to move forward with them too,” he said. “I use them as paradigms, Reformed and always reforming.”
Christmas eve service
The community is invited to a Christmas eve service at St. David’s Episcopal Church, 506 Azure Court. The service will be held at 8 p.m. and led by the Rev. Linda Nelson, celebrant, pastor of Laurinburg’s Lutheran Church of the Living Word, 1925 S. Main St.
Special choir and bell musical selections by Vivaldi are part of the service that will end with the lighting of candles for singing “Silent Night.” All are welcome.
P.S. Still waiting and hoping
Hello, world, is there anybody out there?
I’m still waiting and hoping for the chance to tell your stories. So, how about putting me on your address list to receive your church newsletter? In a short read, I can tell if you have something going on that would make a good column item and would be happy to call someone at your church.
Contact Flo Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 2200 Elm Ave., Apt. 114, Laurinburg, NC 28352 or 910-361-4135.