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Blue Christmas/Longest Night

The CARE Committee of the Synod of Alberta and the Territories would like to encourage as many of you as are able to hold a Blue Christmas service in your community on or around the 21 December on an annual basis.

Grief is something that affects all of us from time to time. Grief happens whenever there is a change of circumstances in our lives. The change can be from death of a loved one or even just an acquaintance. Grief happens when you lose a job or get a job. Grief happens when you go through a divorce or get married. Grief happens when a child is born or moves out of the home when they are older. Grief happens when you get cancer or when you are free of it after treatments. Grief happens when something/anything changes in our lives…in short, grief happens! There is nothing we can do to stop it or make it go away, we simply have to live with it and work through its many stages. Sometimes that is something that happens quickly and sometimes that is something that takes a long time. There are times and places that we feel this grief more keenly that others. One of those times for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere is Christmas with the days being short and the darkness feels overwhelming. We have the combination of a major family type holiday period and the darkness. These two coming together make this time of the year very difficult for many people.

Many churches facilitate people’s working through this season with a different kind of gathering, one that acknowledges the difficulties this time of the year presents to many by holding Blue Christmas, Longest Night, or Darkest Night observances. These gatherings are a chance for people to acknowledge their depressive thoughts and feelings as well as find support for them. When done reverently the service may even enable people to move beyond the darkness and grief and begin to see the joy of life that God offers through the birth of Jesus. In fact they/we may be able to begin to see grief as a way to fully understand God’s full gift of life to us!

To read the full document (including a service outline styled after Rev. Nancy Townely UMC
please click here: Blue Christmas for Wednesday’s Word 2019

People cope with difficult thoughts, feelings, or situations in different ways. Some people cope by injuring themselves on purpose—and it may be the only way for them to feel better. Self-injury may seem frightening, but it’s important to look beyond the injuries and see what’s really going on.

Find out more at:


The Mental Health Commission of Canada has many resources about Mental Health available for your use, with a focus on youth in their latest Newsletter. Read it and find out more at:




 Work is important to our well-being.

In addition to the income it brings, it can be a big part of our identity, how we understand our skills, and a way to contribute to something bigger. However, a mental illness can have a big impact on the way we work.

Visit our website to find support in your community:

The Congregational Action and “REsponse for Mental Health (CARE) ministry of the Alberta Synod also provides many resources on mental health for congregations to use, which you can find, below. We encourage you to make your homes. workplaces, and congregations safe places to have conversations with youth about mental health issues.

A Day to Remember Those with Mental Illness
Worship Resources for 4th Sunday after Epiphany: January 29, 2017

Cover letter: care-congregational-worship-resources-annoucement
Sermon – Series A: sermon-series-a-mental-health
Service Outline: service-outline-day-to-remember-those-with-mental-illness-2017

C.A.Re Tri-fold Brochure: care-brochure-2016

Get Started Kit  – a list of ideas and resource to use in your congregation to get the conversation started about Mental Health.

Prayers for Hope Booklet July 2016 – A booklet of prayers of hope for persons experiencing the Fort McMurray Fire, 2016

Mental Health Issues for Seniors

The theme of this week for the Canadian Mental Health Association is Get Loud to Maintain Positive Mental Health and Get Loud to Get it Back.  All of us need to speak out loudly to counteract the stigma and discrimination that is often associated with mental illness.   This year CMHA is focusing about the mental health of seniors, one of the fastest growing age groups in Canada.  It is estimated that one in four Canadian seniors has a mental health problem and there is some evidence that this number is increasing.  Depression is the most common mental health problem for seniors. Many times seniors are undertreated for mental health problems.  CMHA suggests this may happen for many reasons:  because their symptoms may be confused with other problems like a physical illness, there may be stigma that prevents seniors from asking for help, seniors may believe that it is too late to do anything, getting to treatment is difficult especially if a senior has mobility issues and service availability and cost are deterrents to seeking help.

Congregations can help a senior who is experiencing a mental health issue.  First of all make sure that visitors to seniors are educated about recognizing mental health issues.  Encourage those who visit in hospitals and homes to take the Mental Health First Aid Course   Did you know that workshops are offered throughout each province and territory in Canada so you can select a time and place that suits your schedule?   There are special workshops for those persons who work with youth as well.

Maintaining positive mental health for seniors has some elements that are common to us all.  Eat well, stay active and get enough sleep.  Supportive friendship networks are also needed to nurture our well -being. Churches have the possibility of offering opportunities to develop such support networks and friendships.  Providing seniors with supportive friends and family members may give them the opportunity to share their feelings and needs.

If a senior does experience a mental health issue there are things that can be helpful.  Finding services and getting to the appointment can be daunting.  It might be helpful to accompany a senior to a medical appointment. Visits to a family doctor should include a chance to share issues about mental health as well as physical issues.  Letting a senior know that he or she is not alone in the journey is important.  Where congregations have regular meetings of senior’s groups, this may offer a setting for persons to share information about mental health and in particular to share successful mental health recovery journeys.

At the recent Congregational Life Event in Red Deer, Walking Together: Mental Health Through our Lifetime, Rev. Prema Samuel presented a workshop on Mental Health Among Seniors.  Prema is the chaplain at Rosehaven Care Centre in Camrose.   Marilyn Bulger also presented a workshop on Harp Therapy.  She is a trained and certified Harp Therapist who works with many groups in the Hinton/Jasper area but in particular with Alzheimer patients and in palliative care. Her services are requested individually or through the health unit. Music, and particularly the sounds of the harp, have a particular resonance for these persons.  She has produced a CD entitled Starblanket ,which is a collection of gentle tunes on Celtic harp for relaxation and well-being. The Congregational Get Started Kit is appended to this resource.

There are many resources that you can gather about seniors’ mental health issues. Today there is also a focus on the needs of caregivers who relate to seniors.…

Martin Turcotte. 2013 Family caregiving? What are the consequences?  Article available on  in section on seniors,care and social support, Insights on Canadian Society and then search article name and author. Free to download.

Mental Health Commission of Canada.  Seniors’ Mental Health Guidelines.

[1] May 2016, CARE resource, ELCIC Synod of Alberta and the Territories

Mental Health Month was created over 50 years ago to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of mental wellness for all by Mental Health America. There are now designated times in May for groups to raise awareness and advocate for improvements in research, prevention and treatment on specific mental health issues. To read more from Mental Health Ministries Spring 2017 Newsletter, click here:…