Lurking behind the merriment of the holidays is a bad case of the blues.

Holiday gatherings can put pressure on people to be upbeat and the life of the party.

Dysfunctional families can feel like they'll never get it together. And those without family can experience deep feelings of loneliness.

The Community for Spiritual Living church in Colorado Springs is reaching out to these people and others with a Christmas Taize service on Sunday that relies partly on meditation to lift their mood.

"Christmas time can be the loneliest, saddest time for people," said church Senior Pastor Jody Stevenson. "People need community at this time, and we want to offer that."

A Taize (Tah-ZAY) service offers song, prayer and a method of meditation similar to that of Zen Buddhism.But its roots are firmly planted in Christianity.

The service was developed in the 1940s in an ecumenical Christian community in Taize, France, and quickly became popular because it filled a void within Protestant Christianity.

While Catholicism has the Centering Prayer and the so-called Christian Meditation, both developed by Benedictine monks in the 1970s, and Greek Orthodoxy has a tradition of silent meditation dating back to the Desert Fathers in the fourth century, Protestant churches had no such practice.

Today, hundreds of nonevangelical Protestant churches in America, including a handful in Colorado Springs, hold evening Taize services as a complement to their more traditional Sunday services.

Taize meditation is about emptying the mind to experience the presence of God, said Linda Gleeson, a Taize facilitator at the Community for Spiritual Living.

"In the silence, God has an opportunity to speak to us," Gleeson said.

Sunday's event will be the second annual Taize Christmas service at the nondenominational church, which holds three Taize services each year. Hundreds of white candles will flicker in the dark sanctuary as people pray, sing and listen to Stevenson's brief talk about the holiday blues.

Three five-minute silent meditations will be part of the one-hour service.

Kay Sanders, a 75-year-old church member who has been attending Taize services for three years, said she has deepened her spirituality through Taize.

"We need to take time for meditation," Sanders said, "and be open to whatever the Spirit might share."

Mark Barna

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