For seven years, Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church has been offering a unique service during the holiday season, designed to help those who aren’t in the holiday spirit.
“I’m originally from Virginia and held a similar service there,” said the Rev. Kay Lanasa, who started the service at Mariner’s. “I wanted to be able to do it here. I’m just a retired pastor who works with the prayer in the church.”
In previous years, the service has focused on caregivers and military families.
“The whole service this year will be about finding hope,” said Lanasa. “Every year is a different theme. Someone will give a little testimony of something that has meaning for them. Every year it is different. One year, we honored caregivers. One year, it was military families. One year, everybody brought a picture of a loved one and put it up on a table as a memory kind of thing.”
Lanasa said the theme each year is chosen purely through prayer.
“We pray about it and then something will surface, and somebody will say, ‘Well, why don’t we do this?”
This year, the service will be held on Monday, Dec. 23, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the sanctuary at Mariner’s in Ocean View.
“We always hold it on the 23rd of December because, of course, the church has all sorts of other things going on, all the hoopla that goes along with the season, and that’s all right. But on that Monday night, we’ll have some sort music, and people can stay as long as they’d like.”
Lanasa said it’s important to support those in the community who are not feeling up to celebrating during the season.
“I think this is a very important service, because everyone is not happy at Christmas. I wanted a space where people could come who were lost, lonely, grieving or overwhelmed,” she said. “Just come for about a 45-minute service, and you don’t have to stand or sing or read. Just sit and listen to whoever is on the platform.”
The symbol of the service this year is the butterfly, which Lanasa said represents resurrection and finding hope.
“As people enter that night, they’ll be given a small blue butterfly. That’ll be their prayer butterfly for the service,” she said, adding that each butterfly was made by one of the church’s ministries.
“The church has a prayer shawl ministry. I’m in the prayer room every Sunday and every Tuesday from 5 until 7, and people come and get a prayer shawl and I anoint them. Then they take them to all kinds of people. Quarterly, we also send prayer shawls to Dover Air Force Base, for the fallen soldiers’ families.
“The prayer shawl ministry made the butterflies,” she noted. “Every stitch is prayed over, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It’s powerful.”
Lanasa said the service will consist of a 45-minute service with music and speakers. She added that those who attend do not have to actively participate in the service and may stay in the sanctuary as long as they want.
“This year, we’re going to have readings, like prayers, and two people who play bells, like from a bell choir, and will play them a little bit. We’ve never had that before. We may have a soloist, a student from Indian River, who will sing at the end of the service. It will be powerful,” she said. “Christel and Paul Grandell — the praise leaders at Mariner’s — will be singing some of the music that they’ve written. They wrote a song for Blue Christmas a couple of years ago that’s wonderful.”
Lanasa said that the service has grown some over the years, and she hopes to reach out to more this year.
“Each year, we increase a little bit more because it’s been known in the community. I’m looking for a big attendance. We’re looking for people this year who need it,” she said. “It’s always trying to touch that deeper place in people, that it’s OK. And if you need to cry, that’s OK — there’s healing and tears.”
She added that, over the years, she has heard from people that the service has given them comfort during the holiday season.
“We ask they leave in an attitude of prayer. It’s not the hoopla of Christmas Eve, but it’s definitely touching hearts and touching spirits, and that’s what I’m after. We had one man who left in the middle of it, got down the road, and then turned around and came back because he thought he needed to do that. There are many different stories like that,” she said.
“What I hear later is, ‘That meant more to me than anything else this year.’ It could be that people have lost their home, they’re out of work, they’ve had a sick grandchild, a death in families… that’s pretty typical. Some people don’t want to come because they’re not ready, and I understand that, too.”
Lanasa said that she’s grateful to be in Mariner’s congregation and hopes people in the community who need support will attend the service to experience support but, most importantly, to feel hope.
“Mariner’s is an incredible church that does incredible things. This is just one other little ministry there,” she said. “I hope for healing — inner healing — during this time of the year. Jesus came to heal, and the service is to help with the healing process. We’re all healing from something.”
Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church is located at 81 Central Avenue in Ocean View. For more information, call (302) 539-9510 or visit www.marinersbethel.org.