Wednesday, December 07, 2005

And now, from the "Huh? Christmas Edition" files and Yahoo! News...

(Note: Photos from and

Sudiegirl sez: I already commented once on the whole mega-church thing, and this just came out of nowhere and smacked me upside the head with a two-by-four. I'll do my best, but I'm still pretty dazed...

Some Megachurches Closing for Christmas

AP Religion Writer Tue Dec 6,10:57 PM ET

This Christmas, no prayers will be said in several megachurches around the country. Even though the holiday falls this year on a Sunday, when churches normally host thousands for worship, pastors are canceling services, anticipating low attendance on what they call a family day. (I'm not sure how I feel about it. It is odd when Christmas falls on a Sunday, but still, if you want to go to church, this is your "home church" and your church isn't open, what DO you do?)

Critics within the evangelical community, more accustomed to doing battle with department stores and public schools over keeping religion in Christmas, are stunned by the shutdown.

It is almost unheard of for a Christian church to cancel services on a Sunday, and opponents of the closures are accusing these congregations of bowing to secular culture.

"This is a consumer mentality at work: `Let's not impose the church on people. Let's not make church in any way inconvenient,'" said David Wells, professor of history and systematic theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical school in Hamilton, Mass. "I think what this does is feed into the individualism that is found throughout American culture, where everyone does their own thing." (I don't normally crow over being right nor do I usually agree with evangelists, but I think they're on to something. Individualism is good for some things, but not necessarily for others. And isn't individualism about choice anyway?)

The churches closing on Christmas plan multiple services in the days leading up to the holiday, including on Christmas Eve. Most normally do not hold Christmas Day services, preferring instead to mark the holiday in the days and night before. However, Sunday worship has been a Christian practice since ancient times.
Cally Parkinson, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., said church leaders decided that organizing services on a Christmas Sunday would not be the most effective use of staff and volunteer resources. The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was 1994, and only a small number of people showed up to pray, she said. (More likely than not, I'll wager...and so what's wrong with a more intimate service anyway? As I said before, the man whose birth we celebrate was born in a stable and slept on hay...pretty darned INTIMATE and HUMBLE, ya think?)

"If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning?" she said. (Well, if you're not open, you'll never know, will you?)

Among the other megachurches closing on Christmas Day are Southland Christian Church in Nicholasville, Ky., near Lexington, and Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, outside of Dallas. North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., outside of Atlanta, said on its Web site that no services will be held on Christmas Day or New Year's Day, which also falls on a Sunday. A spokesman for North Point did not respond to requests for comment. (Hmmm...interesting...)

The closures stand in stark contrast to Roman Catholic parishes, which will see some of their largest crowds of the year on Christmas, and mainline Protestant congregations such as the Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran churches, where Sunday services are rarely if ever canceled. (That's how I grew up too...I rarely remember the later service being canceled unless the weather was REALLY, HORRIBLY bad. Moreover, they didn't make you feel guilty if you couldn't be there because you were snowed in.)

Cindy Willison, a spokeswoman for the evangelical Southland Christian Church, said at least 500 volunteers are needed, along with staff, to run Sunday services for the estimated 8,000 people who usually attend. She said many of the volunteers appreciate the chance to spend Christmas with their families instead of working, although she said a few church members complained. (Well, have you asked your congregation what they'd like to do? Oh, no...that would require FORETHOUGHT!)

"If we weren't having services at all, I would probably tend to feel that we were too accommodating to the secular viewpoint, but we're having multiple services on Saturday and an additional service Friday night," Willison said. "We believe that you worship every day of the week, not just on a weekend, and you don't have to be in a church building to worship." (That part I agree with, although if other people want to be in a church, why shouldn't they be?)

Troy Page, a spokesman for Fellowship Church, said the congregation was hardly shirking its religious obligations. Fellowship will hold 21 services in four locations in the days leading up to the holiday. Last year, more than 30,000 worshippers participated. "Doing them early allows you to reach people who may be leaving town Friday," Page said. (Yeah, but what about those who aren't? You know, just because you're unchurched doesn't mean you're not around...)

These megachurches are not alone in adjusting Sunday worship to accommodate families on Christmas. But most other congregations are scaling back services instead of closing their doors. (Now that makes sense, especially in this busy time of year. Enjoying the holiday and the miracle of Christmas is more important.)

First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., led by the Rev. Bobby Welch, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, will hold one service instead of the usual two. New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., led by the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, will hold one Sunday service instead of the typical three. (Now THAT makes sense!)

Sudiegirl's final opinion?

Keeping it simple is not the same as closing. And some people may need/want to be present in a church to experience the feeling of sanctuary. I guess that's where the mega-churches have kind of...well, is SCREWED UP too strong a word? I don't think so!

Peace on earth, good will toward men, pass the pumpkin pie, etc...