Sunday, November 27, 2005

To Worship or not to worship

On December 25th that is. Being a Sunday, do we have our regular Sunday service or not?

Here the Board decided to cancel, figuring that there would not be anyone there (and thinking that it would give me the morning with the girls). I was ready to plan a service of carol singing and storytelling, but also was not about to argue strenuously either way--it wasn't my decision to make. In another place on the web I have recently taken part in a discussion about this issue. There a colleague essentially called those of us who are not pushing our congregation to have a service spineless cultural collaborators. Now, even though such language is uncalled for, there is a point about why we choose to have or not to have worship (and different answers are best/right in different places). I think that the decision here was the right one. I think that the church needs to stand up for ways we can encourage families to spend time together. But I could also make a coherent argument for the need to have a service on Dec 25.

What are people out there doing? What, if any, discussions have been held in your faith communities about that Sunday? Here I am making use of a resource Richard has graciously made available. It is some resources for families to use at home.

PS> the Board here also chose to cancel on January 1. This one I disagree with (but again it is not my decision to make). But since I will be on holidays they would have needed to find someone to take the service--likely a challenge. IF I were going to be here I might have pushed harder not to cancel, and it likely would have been less of an issue anyway.


  1. It's a very good question. Cancelling was never even discussed as an option at our place, but I can certainly understand other places struggling with it. I'm with you on New Year's Day--just have it later I say. But best leave it be since you'll be gone anyway.

    We normally have two Sunday services and we are only having one on 12/25. It will be carols and storytelling as well. I suggested people literally come in their pajamas. I don't know whether anyone will, but my idea was "come as you are."

    Our regular Saturday night service is around tables, and I also suggested we do that--like a family breakfast atmosphere at the church. Sing some songs, have some bagels. The problem is we would have to convert our meeting house from rows of chairs to tables after our last Christmas Eve service--which gets out around 1 a.m. So we will be in our regular rows.

    Sorry for the long-winded answer!

  2. THanks RM. Just for clarification I should mention that our year-round average attendance is approximately 45. LAst year on BOxing Day there were about 10 regular congregants and the rest were family in from out of town or from other churches attending for the baptisms we had that day. It was after that service that the Board Chair started wondering about this year. THe logic for Jan 1 was that everybody will be sleeping in after being up late. I challenge that since fewer and fewer people are doing the all night thing--I know many who don't actually make it to midnight (myself included usually).

  3. Yep, I figured as much. I think the reason it never came up with us is that we knew we'd get a critical mass there, even if attendance was light by "normal" standards. (700 members)

    I really like the approach of giving families some breathing space. Maybe you could hand out a resource for them to do worship at home--that's very theologically sound--worship on the Lord's Day was never intended to be the only time people worship; it was supposed to complement one's daily practice of worship--if I remember correctly from seminary!

  4. Gord, Small Church is a little bigger than yours (we average something like 60 in worship, but that's with a wild swing from 75 on big days to 30ish in the summer months when "nobody" goes to church in Maine).
    Theoretically it was the Deacon's decision to make about worship services for Christmas, but they do look to me for advice. I said, "How can we not have church when Christmas is on a Sunday?" The Head Deacon is married to a woman who literally never misses church, and they will be there.
    I am planning a service much like the one I held on the 26th last year, which was exceedingly informal, which featured stories and carols and some special music by my kids. Our musician is young and home is five hours away, so she will leave right after our Christmas Eve service. Last year I hired a neighboring teenager, but this year, thank goodness, we have a new member who is a school music teacher and a preacher's kid who understands the dilemma. She is willing to come and play at 10 a.m. despite having a 5-year-old of her own. I talked my former husband into letting my kids come with me (this is his year to have them Christmas morning), so that makes eight of us at least! We will also have Communion.
    New Year's is another matter entirely. The musician will be away and offered to find a substitute, but my experience with letting her take charge of that has not been favorable. I talked with the pastor of the new church start that meets in our Vestry on Sunday afternoons and we agreed that we would "combine" our services for Christmas and New Year's, which is to say, I'll have one Christmas morning at my usual time and he'll have one New Year's Day afternoon at his usual time, and we will invite each other's congregations. I will be in Mississippi that Sunday, which helped make the case for not having a service that morning. As you rightly point out Gord, who would fill in? My head Deacon was prepared to lead worship, but getting someone to accompany was going to be the problem.

  5. My Roman Catholic husband can't figure out why we Protestants don't ALWAYS have a Christmas Day service, regardless of whether it's a Sunday or not.

    As far as "family time" on Christmas morning: at our place the kids are up by 6 a.m.--(they'd be up at 3 if we'd let them), the presents are opened by 7:00 and by mid morning church time we're actually ready to get out of the house and do something different.

    It never occured to me to cancel on New Years. I guess I never had such a congregation of partiers that this was a huge issue . . . (if anyone missed, it would be due to football passion, not a hangover.)

  6. Our pastor holds the service, but we won't go--many will miss it.

  7. We are having one service at 10 am (instead of our usual two services at 9 and 11:15). We did cancel Sunday School but are providing a "Happy Birthday Jesus" party for preschool through 3rd graders at the same time as the 10 am service. BTW, we have 3 services the day before-- at 5 pm, 7 pm and 11 pm.

    New Year's Day we return to our usual Sunday morning schedule: two worship services with Sunday School in between.

  8. Wow, I can't even imagine canceling Sunday services for holidays. We might have a shorter service with a message in keeping with the holiday, but it wouldn't even have occurred to me not to attend church on Sunday just because it was a holiday.