Light­ing hope in the long­est night

The Taos News - - LOCAL NEWS - By Cody Hooks [email protected]­news.com

Even though “It’s the Most Won­der­ful Time of the Year” plays on loop with the other win­ter­time mu­si­cal fa­vorites dur­ing the sea­son, its ti­tle is not a uni­ver­sal truth. In re­al­ity, the hol­i­days can be some of the most dif­fi­cult of days.

Three events planned for this week­end are meant to make space for people to grieve, sit with their sor­rows and share in prayer and silent con­tem­pla­tion.

Long­est Night ser­vice

St. James Epis­co­pal Church is host­ing a “Long­est Night” ser­vice this Fri­day (Dec. 21), the day of the win­ter sol­stice, specif­i­cally “to ac­knowl­edge the sor­rows…of those who mourn, those who strug­gle and those who feel alone,” said the Rev. Mike Olsen, rec­tor at St. James.

The Long­est Night ser­vice is a tra­di­tion in dif­fer­ent churches. Olsen brought the ser­vice to Taos six years ago when he moved from Cal­i­for­nia to the con­gre­ga­tion.

“The idea is to to give people a place, a space and the per­mis­sion to quit singing Christ­mas car­ols and get rid of that smile,” Olsen said. It’s im­por­tant, he said, “to re­al­ize that for a lot of people, this isn’t the hap­pi­est time of the year, just as it prob­a­bly wasn’t for Joseph and Mary.”

The mostly quiet, candlelit ser­vice will take place Fri­day at St. James, lo­cated at 208 Camino de San­ti­ago in Taos. The ser­vice be­gins at 7 p.m.

Hon­or­ing the home­less who died in 2018

There are times in a small com­mu­nity that when some­one dies, the whole county is abuzz about it. But there are those people who, at their pass­ing, get as lit­tle at­ten­tion in death as they did in life. That is es­pe­cially true for home­less Taoseños.

To remedy that si­lence, El Pue­blito United Methodist Church, along with the Taos Men’s Shel­ter, will hold a “Home­less Me­mo­rial Day” ser­vice and meal this Fri­day (Dec.

21). The ser­vice runs from 3 to 4 p.m., and the re­cep­tion will last un­til 5 p.m.

El Pue­blito UMC is lo­cated at

1309 Paseo del Pue­blo Norte in El Prado.

“A me­mo­rial ser­vice, in the spirit of love, can pro­vide for ev­ery­one a feel­ing of com­fort and con­nec­tion,” said Cheri Lyon, pas­tor of El Pue­blito. “It is a mean­ing­ful way to rec­og­nize and honor those who have died while home­less and those who are still strug­gling to find per­ma­nent, af­ford­able hous­ing. The me­mo­rial ser­vice is a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort by faith com­mu­ni­ties in Taos County and or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­di­vid­u­als work­ing to ad­dress the is­sues of homelessness in the re­gion.”

Ac­cord­ing to the shel­ter’s Ethan Naszady, at least eight men who pre­vi­ously used ser­vices at the shel­ter died in 2018.

But as with data about homelessness, that fig­ure is likely not a full ac­count­ing of home­less people in Taos who’ve died re­cently.

The event will also honor not only the people known to have died but also the people that home­less or­ga­ni­za­tions have lost touch with and whose where­abouts are un­known.

“As we wel­come the Win­ter Sol­stice, Taoseños will gather for in­ter­faith prayer, po­ems, songs, eu­lo­gies and a meal to re­mem­ber those home­less in­di­vid­u­als who died or dis­ap­peared in 2018,” reads a flyer for the event.

The death of friends can be an in­tense ex­pe­ri­ence not only for those people liv­ing with­out a home but for the people who work with home­less folks, Naszady said. To that end, the event is sure to be a “fun­da­men­tally cathar­tic event for work­ers and vol­un­teers,” he said.

As one of the or­ga­niz­ers, he hopes the me­mo­rial ser­vice will build up more good en­ergy for an­other year of work­ing across the com­mu­nity to tackle homelessness.

Vigil for sep­a­rated fam­i­lies

Sin Fron­teras Nuevo Méx­ico, a Taos-based im­mi­grant rights or­ga­ni­za­tion, is host­ing a can­dle­light vigil Sun­day (Dec. 23) to pray for fam­i­lies sep­a­rated at the United States bor­der.

“Come join us to pray in si­lence for the im­mi­grant chil­dren and fam­i­lies,” read a Face­book post about the event. The vigil is also meant to honor Jake­line Caal Maquin, a 7-yearold girl from Gu­atemala who died re­cently while be­ing held by U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion. Her death has sparked re­newed at­ten­tion to asy­lum seek­ers on the U.S. bor­der.

The vigil is planned for Sun­day evening from 5:30 to

6:30 at the Taos Plaza.

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Taos will see at least three events the week­end of the win­ter sol­stice to honor the sor­row of the hol­i­day sea­son. The events in­clude a me­mo­rial for de­ceased Taoseños who were home­less, a “long­est night” ser­vice and a vigil for im­mi­grant fam­i­lies.

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