Conway notebook | St. Paul’s has service for those who hurt during the holidays

Believe it or not, there are people even in the Christmas wonderland of Conway who don’t greet the season with “ho-ho-ho.”

In fact, for some the holidays can be depressing, lonely and downright miserable.

The folks at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church understand and for some time have held a special service that caters to those who find it hard to see the hope through their darkness.

This year, for the first time, the church is putting out a call for members of the general public to come to the service scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, said the Rev. Jason Collins, associate rector at St. Paul’s.

“This service is a time when those who are broken, weary and hurting can come reflect on any pain, loneliness or sadness they may feel and offer it all to our great sign of hope, Jesus, the Christ Child, who is our light in times of darkness,” says a church flyer about the service.

Collins said those who are hurting are shackled by a preconception that the holidays are a time when everyone is supposed to be happy, but it’s not necessarily so.

“There’s a lot of pain and loneliness in the world,” Collins said.

The service will include times for prayers, singing songs appropriate for both the season and the pain and reassurance that there is hope even in the struggle. A reception and light refreshments will follow in the Fellowship Hall of the church, located at Main Street and Lakewood Avenue.

The result, Collins hopes, will be a lifting of the mood.

“You offer hope and plant a seed,” he said, “and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.”

Conway Xmas 2013: chag sameach?

People who have participated in it would say the city of Conway has the Christmas thing down pat.

Celebrations and festivals start early in the season, go on day and night and encompass a variety of events from tree lighting ceremonies to a dog Christmas costume contest. Of course there’s shopping. Of course there’s Santa’s lap. Of course there are carols.

But it’s not just Christians who celebrate in the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Jews celebrate Hanukkah, or the festival of lights, at the same time of year, and Hillary Howard, executive director of Conway Downtown Alive, was warm to the idea of making the town’s Jewish population a part of the town’s holiday festivities.

Howard said she worked at a Jewish Community Center in Atlanta for nine years before she moved to Conway and still finds herself thinking of Hanukkah this time of year. When she was at the community center, where she said she was often the only gentile among 200 employees, she would go to members’ homes for meals and candle-lighting during the eight-day observance.

Conway’s Temple Shalom has an annual Hanukkah party at the Grand Strand Senior Center and this year lit the initial candle on a 15-foot menorah at The Market Common.

Would the congregation be open to sharing its celebration with Conway as well?

“If I was asked by somebody in the city,” said Rabbi David Weissman, “I would do it. But nobody has approached me.”

That could change.

Chag sameach?

It’s Hebrew for “happy holiday.”

Pronounce it KHAHG sah-MEHY-ahkh.