09 December 2005
Two takes on the news that at least eight major megachurches have cancelled their Sunday services for Christmas day. Laurie Goodstein, of The New York Times, has the more thorough report, both for the snicker-worthy substitutes offered for worship — a “heartwarming” Christmas story DVD produced by Willow Creek Community Church (congregation: 20,000); an online streaming video service provided by the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church (25,000 members), in case congregants “‘want to join their family around the computer and worship with us’” — as well as for the picture Goodstein sketches of the conflict of megachurches striving to be the most user- and family-friendly, and thereby placing convenience above religious obligation. The Washington Times is more forgiving — heavy on quotes from pastors emphasizing the family-focus of their churches, and the need of many of their congregants to travel — though, like the NY Times, it also has a section for peeved Catholics and Episcopalians, dumbfounded by the decision to close church on Christmas, and ever-so-slightly sanctimonious in their offers to welcome abandoned megachurch congregants into their own churches on Sunday, December 25, where service is held “‘every Sunday come hell or high water.’”