No Church on Christmas Day? Some Churches Cutting or Cancelling Christmas Services

Some churches are cutting services or staying closed on Christmas Day.Some churches are cutting services or staying closed on Christmas Day.Amid all of the "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas" controversy, some churches are cancelling services on Sunday, December 25, because pastors and parishioners would prefer to stay home with their families.

"We felt like let's get together Christmas Eve with our church family and then have Christmas Day with our families," lead pastor Tommy Kyllonen of the Grace Family and Crossover Church told The St. Petersburg Times. The church near Tampa, Florida, is having services on December 23 and 24 instead.

It's a growing trend. Though most Catholics and Episcopalians go to services on Christmas Day no matter which day of the week it falls on, many Protestants are more likely to see that day as one reserved for family, and to worship on Christmas Eve instead. According to a survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors conducted recently by the Christian research group LifeWay, 63 percent of Protestant pastors will offer services on Christmas Eve, and many are planning to scale back services on Christmas Day, with 6 percent saying that they plan to eliminate the Christmas Day service entirely.

"We have a young crowd, many of whose families live elsewhere," Aaron Graham, pastor of the one-year-old District Church in Washington, D.C., told The Associated Baptist Press. His congregation meet in a neighborhood school building. "We are just having a Christmas Eve service on Saturday night at 5 p.m. and no Sunday services. This is a combination of the challenge of getting access to our school space on Christmas as well as the number of our folks who will be out of town."

Other, more established congregations, are dealing with the same dilemma.

"We have to face the reality of families who don't want to struggle to get kids dressed and come to church," Brad Jernberg, minister of music and administration at Cliff Temple Baptist Church in Dallas, told The Associated Baptist Press.

Protestant pastors in the South are less likely (64 percent) to host a Christmas Eve service compared to other regions, LifeWay found, and Mainline protestant pastors are more likely (87 percent) to have a Christmas Eve service than Evangelicals (70 percent).

Rather than staying closed on a Sunday, some churches are holding informal services just in case people decide to pull themselves away from their presents. The First United Church of Tampa told the St. Petersburg Times that they're holding a casual Christmas brunch with prayer and a scripture reading.

"I know we have people in the congregation and in the community who don't have family to spend the holiday with and many of them will join us," said pastor Bernice Powell Jackson.

Other pastors are combining the spiritual and the material. The Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa is planning a Blessing of the Toys on Christmas Day.

"Children can bring toys and we will say a prayer over them," said Jim Harnish, senior pastor. "It's going to be a smaller service, but we are going to try to capitalize on the intimacy and warmth."

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