The Longest Night: Homeless Persons Memorial Service

JACKSON, Tenn — The winter solstice made Thursday night the longest night of the year. Its around this time of year that many congregations hold a special memorial service designed to help those who have lost loved ones.

Area Relief Ministries partnered with St. Luke’s Episcopal Church to remember those who have died this year, but leaders put a special emphasis on the service recognizing the homeless population in our community.

“The fact that we have a home a roof over our heads is very special and it’s easy to forget those who have no place to go,” Church Member, Lyda Kay Ferree said.

Community members gathered for the ‘Longest Night of the Year-Homeless Memorial Service’, honoring lives that are often forgotten.

“A combination of the longest night of the year service plus a memorial for the homeless,” Reverend Gayle McCarty said.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church opened their doors Thursday night to host the event with help from Area Relief Ministries, an organization who serves the homeless and low-income families.

“I’m delighted that we have an organization like Area Relief Ministries and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church who have partnered on this wonderful venture to honor the homeless,” Kayferree said.

Executive Director of ARM, Michael Roby, contacted several agencies throughout the city who serves as a safety net for the homeless and received a list of those who died this year in Jackson-Madison county.

Roby read seven names during the service, with a candle lit in memory of each person. Those names are Jere Butler, Spilsa (Spencer) Reeves, Ben Amos, Alvester Merriweather, Fredrick Holder, Joe Casey, and Kenneth Lanier.

“The eighth candle is for all those unnamed, unknown individuals that died that we don’t know about, but God knows about.. God knows their name,” Reverend McCarty said.

As service came to an end, attendees held a silent reflection.

“We wanted to honor each and every one of them and give them dignity and respect post death,” McCarty said.

During this season of celebration church leaders want to remind the community to keep those less fortunate in your thoughts. Organizers plan on making the memorial service an annual event, rotating the location between churches in the downtown area.

Reverend Darryl Coleman of Mother Liberty CME Church has already committed to host the service next year.

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