On Saturday and Sunday, Peninsula Grace Church on Kalifornsky Beach Road will hold its annual Christmas dessert, with volunteers serving holiday sweets between helpings of Christmas hymns served up by the church choir. On Christmas Eve, services will include a multimedia choir presentation.
On Christmas which falls on a Sunday the church will be empty.
“Many of our volunteers will be serving at both of our Christmas Eve services, not getting home until close to 1 a.m. I don’t want to require them to be back at church early Christmas morning to get ready for an 11 a.m. worship service,” Peninsula Grace senior pastor Dan Thornton said.
“The janitor would need to clean, musicians would need to practice, ushers would need to prepare the buildings and possibly shovel snow, and hospitality people would prepare coffee and cookies,” Thornton said.
Peninsula Grace held Christmas Day Sunday services in 1988 and 1994, but Thornton said the Christmas Eve services have been growing since then.
“Since 1988, our people have benefited from our Christmas Eve services so much that we can’t accommodate them in only one sitting, so we now have two Christmas Eve worship times,” Thornton said.
Thornton’s church, though not following a trend, is one of many around the nation that have canceled or scaled back services.
Churches do not normally hold Christmas Day services, preferring instead to mark the holiday in the days and night before. Sunday, however, is always a day for church.
Most Kenai Peninsula congregations will gather for at least one service on Christmas Day. Melissa Bever, administrative assistant at the Church of God in Soldotna, said instead of the typical 9 and 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday services, the church only will host the midmorning service.
“We know a lot of people have family in town that weekend they’ll want to spend time with, but they still want to go to church,” Bever said of her church’s decision. “That way they can do both.”
Jim Duncan, pastor at the Peninsula Christian Center in Soldotna, said there was a great deal of discussion about what should happen on Christmas Day. His church will hold one midmorning service on Christmas.
“Our feeling is that if there is any day we should have church, it is on the day of Christ,” Duncan said. “We just decided to try and pick the service that would be the least disruptive.”
The center did the same thing in 1994, but Duncan said as times change, the church must change.
“It’s all an experiment in cultural development, I guess,” he said. “What worked 11 years ago may not work now.”
The center’s experiment extends beyond the Christmas holiday, as well.
Because the Christmas service is at 10:30 a.m., the church decided to hold New Year’s Day services at 8:30 a.m. to accommodate parishioners accustomed to the early service.
“The early birds that get up at that time don’t get up late anyway, so we thought we’d give them one,” he said.
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