Pastor Gerri Ridings, of Goshen United Methodist Church, knows Christmas isn’t such a happy time for everyone. Some are mourning the death of a loved one, or may be sad about lost relationships, unemployment, or physical or mental illness.
Last year her own family was mourning the loss of her brother, Bob Stevenson, of North Cape May, who died of a heart attack while bringing home his Christmas tree the year before. His granddaughter, Lily Stevenson, 7, of Erma, found some healing in a Blue Christmas service at Ridings’ church, where she could sing solemn hymns and light a candle for her grandfather.
Ridings will conduct this year’s Blue Christmas service 7:30 tonight at Goshen United Methodist Church, 321 Route 47 North, Cape May Court House. It is the fourth year the church has offered it, and children are welcome, as are people of any faith, or no faith.
“Generally we talk about the fact that every person has events (that are painful). ... It’s part of being human,” Ridings said. “We don’t understand why some things happen, but as Christians we understand God weeps with us when we weep, and rejoices with us when we rejoice.”
She is anticipating a larger crowd this year. People are still reeling from Hurricane Sandy, and then came the shootings in Newtown, Conn.
“It’s touched people at a much deeper level,” Ridings said. “I have two 7-year-old grandchildren. One of the victims has the same first name. I thought, ‘It could have been my James.’
Gift drive for homeless
The family of the late Laura Costantino, the Estell Manor mom who had experienced homelessness as a teenager, is continuing the holiday gift drive she started in 2010 for 50 homeless teens at Covenant House in Atlantic City. They have also added 60 teens in Philadelphia to the drive, said her sister Kelly Odee, of Elwood in Mullica Township.
Odee said the family has included laminated stars with words of encouragement from Costantino with each gift. Costantino, who died of pancreatic cancer Sept. 9 at age 43, was a beverage server for about 20 years at Trump Marina/Golden Nugget. She leaves behind husband Peter, and children Peter, 14, and Caroline, 11.
Hospital honors workers
Cape Regional Medical Center cook Irene Fitzpatrick, of Woodbine, celebrated her 40th year of service with other team members hitting milestones of five to 35 years, at a dinner on Dec. 6. at The Grand Hotel in Cape May.
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