Lighting hope in the longest night
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.
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.