City Mission holds ‘longest night’ vigil

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As the sky darkened outside Saturday, commencing the longest night of the year, the City Mission’s chapel in Washington also dimmed its lights. Faces bowed in prayer were dimly illuminated by flameless candles dotting the pews and Christmas decorations strung along the wall.

In addition to City Mission’s regular church services, the nonprofit organization held a “longest night vigil” Saturday for the winter solstice in remembrance of those who have died, and to recognize others still battling homelessness, addiction or illness.

Names were read aloud: Richard, Jack, Maggie, Papa, Pap Pap, Kenny and the list went on. Some people became emotional during the candlelit vigil as the names they had written down – of loved ones lost, or still struggling – were read from slips of paper placed in a basket.

Dean Gartland, City Mission president, said the service was attended by a mixture of residents, parishioners of Trinity Church in Washington and individuals who were staying in the cold weather shelter for the night.

Mark Stevenson, archdeacon of Trinity Church, said Christmas can be a long and lonely season for many.

“There’s a lot of merry-making going on, but sometimes we realize that the losses that we’ve suffered over the last year in our lives, they can take some of the joy out of the Christmas season,” he said.

“We have all gone through dark times,” Claire Megles, a Trinity Church parishioner, said during a homily. “Christmas is very difficult for a lot of people because it’s not just warm pajamas and hot chocolate for everybody. There are real struggles and pain.”

Megles read from the scripture and cited a passage where Christ called upon others to become the light.

“I don’t know about you, but sometimes I don’t feel like I’m shining very brightly,” she said. “I think most of my life I feel kind of like a dim bulb, but we don’t have to be a big searchlight. We don’t have to be a blazing bonfire.”

Megles said that on the longest night of the year, “We can be lights in the darkness. We live by faith, and we trust God.”

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