Illinois Church a Safe Place for Tears

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At church, it’s okay not be okay.

 Jessica Groen wanted people to know that, so she came up with the idea for services of lament at Peace Christian Reformed Church in South Holland, Ill.

 “I noticed in my church that people leave the sanctuary if they are crying,” said Groen, who has struggled with depression in the past. “It’s weird that we feel we have to take our tears to the library.”

 To help her plan, the church’s director of music ministry, Jane Bolkema, referred Groen to the June 2010 issue of Reformed Worship magazine, which had a feature on using psalms of lament in worship, and Groen ended up planning a series of lament services.

“When you dig into the Bible more, it’s amazing to find out how much is in there having to do with lament,” Groen said. “Lament is a way of grabbing onto God, a faithful way of interacting with God.”

The church has held three evening lament services so far: one on work, for Boss’s day; one called “Blue Christmas;” and one on love for Valentine’s Day. A fourth service, lamenting environmental damage, is planned for Earth Day.

 Only a few people have come to the services, but numbers are not the focus, said Bolkema.

“The services have been well-advertised and part of our goal was to let the South Holland community know that we care about their suffering. It may have been a silent affirmation to some that their grief is acceptable to God.

“For those who participated, it has been a relief to finally speak publicly about personal pain and then have others surround them with words of understanding and support,” Bolkema continued.

While the services focus on lament, they end in words of comfort from God as spoken in the Bible.

 Groen said the church is considering having a morning worship service of lament in the fall, possibly in conjunction with the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

About the Author

Roxanne VanFarowe is a freelance writer who lives in the woods with her artist husband James and their five children in Hillsborough, North Carolina. They are members of Blacknall Presbyterian Church in Durham.