An increased number of churches are canceling Christmas day services in anticipation of low attendance, given the holiday falls on a Sunday this year.
With the pandemic impacting the way people worship, Only 84 percent of pastors plan on holding services this year, down from 89 percent in 2016, which was the last time Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, according to surveys conducted by Lifeway Research. Only 60 percent of pastors plan to have church services on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Reallife Church in Macon, Georgia tweeted that they would be hosting a Christmas Eve service, but not one on Christmas morning.
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Josh Camody, the pastor of New Covenant Christian Church posted a video on Twitter saying there would be no services on December 25. “Enjoy some time at home with your family,” he said.
Mecklenburg Community Church in Iowa is hosting in-person Christmas Eve services, but services on Christmas day are only online.
“Families have many traditions on Christmas morning, and most pastors acknowledge not as many of their members will be present compared to Christmas Eve and services earlier in the month,” Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, said in the report. “However, churches not holding services on Christmas Day are still the exception.”
The Catholic Church believes Sunday Mass to be a non-negotiable, which includes Christmas Day even if it does fall on a Sunday. In contrast, only 61 percent of nondenominational evangelical pastors said they would be leading services this year, according to Lifeway’s survey.
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In addition, churches with 250 or more in attendance are more likely to hold Sunday services on Christmas day than those with fewer than 50 in attendance.
First United Methodist Church Winter Park in Florida canceled services on the 25th, encouraging its congregation to “spend time with loved ones and celebrate the birth of Christ” at home instead, according to a tweet.
Walnut Gardens Community of Christ in Independence, Ohio said it wouldn’t be hosting a service on the 25th, but posted to Twitter that for “those wishing to attend a Christmas Day service, the Mission Center has posted that Grandview Community of Christ will be having one.”
“Additionally there are services at Beacon Heights, Colonial Hills, and Woods Chapel Community of Christ,” the tweet added. “For more information on specific times, check with that congregation.”
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This year, 85 percent of Protestant pastors plan to hold services on New Year’s Day, which is the same as six years ago when the holiday last fell on Sunday, according to the report.
All Saints Community Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma will be closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day and will instead host a Christmas Eve service and a “worship night” on Jan. 1.
“Some churches meet on New Year’s Eve for a service followed by fun and fellowship,” McConnell said. “Others have a late-night or watchnight service reflecting on the past year with spiritually significant times of prayer and observing communion.”
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Some pastors took to Twitter to voice their opposition to churches canceling Christmas Day services, seeing it an affront to the reason for the season.
“Canceling church to celebrate ‘Christ’mas — that should not make sense to any believer,” Nathaniel Jolly, pastor of Homer Reformed Baptist Church in Homer, Alaska tweeted.
“Isn’t it tragically ironic that some churches will be closed next Sunday because Christmas falls on that day?” David Cassidy, lead pastor of Spanish River Church in Boca Raton, Florida tweeted. “In some places the magi might show up for worship and find the doors locked. In an ironic twist of the tale they’d find that there is no room for them in the church.”