On Dec. 21, Grace Lutheran Church, 7300 Division St. in River Forest will hold a Longest Night Service that will begin at 7 p.m.

“We have this service,” explained Troy Medlin, associate pastor at Grace, “as a way of acknowledging that the holiday season is often difficult for many people. Whether folks are living with illness, grief, a recent loss, or a family that is fractured or does not accept them, the holidays can be a time of deep pain and loneliness, not joy and merriment. 

“We believe that in the darkness we find God dwelling there with us and leading us into a future where it all belongs. Many folks find this to be a peaceful place to pray, sing, lament, and hope together with others.” 

Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church, 744 Fair Oaks in Oak Park, held their Longest Night Service last Saturday. On a bitterly cold night, 11 worshippers quietly filed into the darkened sanctuary. The Call to Worship set the tone:

Leader: Give ear to my words, O Lord; give heed to my sighing.

All: Listen to the sound of my cry.

Leader: It is to you, you alone, I pray.

All: Be gracious, and hear my broken prayer.

Pastor Ben Lynch, one of the co-pastors of the congregation, lit the first of the four Advent candles and said, “Sometimes hope feels impossibly distant. Hear our cry of hopelessness, O God, and break into our lives once again.”

To which the people responded, “Lord, have mercy upon us.”

The service continued with more candle-lighting, a reading from Psalm 22, 15 minutes of silence and a blessing.

Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake St. in Oak Park, held their Longest Night service on Monday evening. 

“It is a holy night,” said Colin Knapp, Pilgrim’s senior pastor, “when we’re given a safe place to cry out to God and to name our longings for a new day, for light, for hope. A time to sit through the beautiful darkness with each other, waiting on God, waiting for hope.

“Pilgrim has had a Longest Night Gathering since 2017 — we usually have about 50 people show up. For some, it feels like the holiest thing, the most authentic thing we do all year.”

Tom Holmes

Forest Park