For people feeling the emotional tug caused by a bereavement or an illness, one of Christianity’s most uplifting days might be little cause for joy.
But there’s a special service at Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Adelaide on Sunday called the Blue Christmas Service.
It’s not Christmas Day mass with an atmosphere as sombre as Good Friday, but Reverend Christy Capper said there were subtle differences.
“It’s going to be nearly the same in the liturgy as other services but they’ve carefully chosen their songs so they’re not going to sing things like … Joy to the World,” she said.
“They’ll focus on that joy in other ways.”
Reverend Capper said Christmas Day could be a time when people remembered those they had lost during the year.
“It can be a time when maybe they’ve just received a diagnosis of illness and it’s not always a time when we’re feeling very happy ourselves,” she said.
“So Blue Christmas is a time when those things are realised … a service that is perhaps a little bit less peppy or excitable than some of the other Christmas services.”
Reverend Capper said the Blue Christmas was an example of Australian Christian denominations engaging with congregations by updating church services.
Other efforts included a live nativity play to allow participation across the whole family.
“Sometimes children can get a little bit bored in church — I think we all can at times — but [it’s] something that brings alive the story of Christmas and that they’re able to see it there, that’s specifically for the children.”
Church attendance not a reflection of belief
Reverend Capper, who is also the director of missiology with Adelaide’s Uniting Church, believed church attendance had become a less reliable indicator of religious beliefs.
She said some denominations might consider it problematic that some people only attended church at Christmas and Easter, but she felt an insistence on weekly attendance could drive people away.
“Some churches certainly are very tied into weekly attendance,” Reverend Capper said.
“I think others have just realised that it’s just not going to happen for quite a lot of people.
“There’s obviously a lot of young people who have left their church and everyone thinks that they must have given up their faith but more and more we’re seeing that actually there’s still a very live space that’s there, just not the church attendance that goes along with it.”
The Blue Christmas Service will be held at St Peters Cathedral in Adelaide at 9:30am on December 24.