URBANA — The holidays can be tough for those who are grieving, going through a job loss or divorce, or who are overwhelmed by finals, personal issues or just the state of the world.
To offer support, the Wesley Student Center near campus will host a special “Longest Night Gathering” tonight with the Chicago musical group The Many, a worship band that performs uplifting songs “that bring more truth, hope and beauty into the world,” according to the Rev. Julie Dowler, associate director and campus minister at the Wesley Foundation.
Churches frequently offer Longest Night or Blue Christmas worship services during the middle of December, but this one will be more interactive, she said.
The Many, part of a progressive artists collective in Chicago called the Plural Guild, will lead parts of the service, which will include poetry readings, scripture passages, prayers and music the band members have written.
Those attending will be able to share their pain, write it on cloth and then tear it, as those in the Old Testament would rend their garments in grief, Dowler said. The pieces will then be put together in a tapestry.
“We’re saying it is OK for us to be vulnerable, it’s OK for us to share our hurts,” she said. And that we can actually find hope in coming together to do that, and work together for change.”
They will also light candles as a commitment to change, she said.
The Many is a diverse, progressive group that draws on indie, pop and gospel influences. The band’s latest album is “Love > Fear.” The band has written music specifically for the season of advent, Dowler said.
The songs are honest and but also hopeful, including not only the celebratory aspects of Christian music but the hurt, pain and doubt in the world, she said.
The primary message is, “We are on this Earth to love,” she said, and “we all belong. The community of faith is open to everyone and should celebrate and affirm every single person.”
The service, normally held on Dec. 20 or Dec. 21, the longest night of the year, was moved up a week so UI students could take part before they leave for winter break, Dowler said. Final exams started Friday, and “this is a pretty stressful time for students.”
The event is free and starts at 7 p.m. at the Wesley Student Center, 1203 W. Green St., C. Child care will be provided, and light refreshments will be offered at a fellowship in the Great Hall after the service. For more information, go to wesleyui.org or call 217-344-1120.