Every year, people from all over the world flock to their local church to attend joyous Christmas services full of uplifting carols, prayers of hope, and words of encouragement.

But for a large number of often overlooked believers, these hope-filled services are anything but uplifting.

For those who have lost loved ones, dealt with debilitating illnesses or experienced a messy divorce, Christmas is like salting a fresh wound. And it’s the reason why many churches have begun hosting special Blue Christmas services as an antithesis to the holiday spirit.

Blue Christmas — also known as Longest Night Services in some churches — typically take place on the longest night of the year; on or around Dec. 21. It’s a time for people who have experienced great misfortune or grief to attend a Christmas service without all of the glitz and glamour.

Blue Christmas services usually take place in the evening, when the sun is starting to set, and many congregations choose to decorate with candles that glow in the dimly lit sanctuaries of their church. This is often accompanied by light hymn singing or scripture reading.

The Rev. Sarah Lowenberg, associate pastor at Russellville First UMC, said her church has been participating in Longest Night Services since 2008.

She said these types of services are important for people because it gives them the opportunity to acknowledge loss or pain during a time when those feelings are typically pushed to the side.

“As someone who lost both her father and step-dad in the same year, that first Christmas was very hard, especially pastoring – putting on the happy face each Sunday and at each party or event. I needed a place to sit, cry, reflect, remember, and be reminded to look forward and see Hope,” Lowenberg said.

If you’re interested in hosting a Blue Christmas Service at your church, the Rev. Nancy C. Townley, an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, has an easy-to-follow template that you can use for your own event. It includes hymns to sing, passages of scripture to read, and prayers to recite.

Those who wish to attend a Blue Christmas Service in their area can find a list of participating churches in the Arkansas Conference below. If you are having a Blue Christmas Service and would like your church’s name added to the list, please contact Day Davis at day.davis@arumc.org or Caleb Hennington at caleb.hennington@arumc.org.

Wesley United Methodist Church
179 Memory Ln, Cotter, AR 72626
Dec. 15 at 5 p.m.

Pulaski Heights UMC
4823 Woodlawn Dr., Little Rock, AR 72205
Dec. 16 at 4 p.m.

First UMC Hot Springs
1100 Central Ave., Hot Springs, AR 71901
Dec. 16 at 6 p.m.

Central UMC
6 W. Dickson St., Fayetteville, AR 72701
Dec. 16 at 6 p.m. at the Wesley Chapel

Sylvan Hills UMC
9921 Hwy 107, Sherwood, AR 72120
Dec. 16 at 5 p.m.

Cherokee Village UMC
21 Otter Dr., Cherokee Village, AR 72529
Dec. 21, potluck at 6 p.m. and service at 7 p.m.

Jacksonville First UMC
308 W. Main St., Jacksonville, AR 72076
Dec. 21 at 6 p.m.

Beebe First UMC
E. College St., Beebe, AR 72012
Dec. 21 at 5 p.m.

First UMC
304 S. Commerce St., Russellville, AR
Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. in the Covenant Classroom

First UMC Bella Vista
20 Boyce Dr., Bella Vista, AR 72715
Dec. 21 at 6:30 p.m.

Cornerstone United Methodist Church
1910 Disciple Dr., Jonesboro, AR 72401
Dec. 21 at 6 p.m.

Wesley United Methodist Church
2310 E Oak St., Conway, Arkansas 72032
Dec. 21 at 5 p.m.

Quapaw Quarter UMC
1601 Louisiana, Little Rock, AR 72206
Dec. 21 at 5:30 p.m.

First United Methodist Church
307 W. Elm St., Rogers, AR 72756
Dec. 21 at 6 p.m.

White Hall UMC
301 Church Dr, White Hall, AR 71602
Dec. 21 at 7 p.m.