PEI

Keeping the faith: How some churches stay busy after Christmas

For many Christians, attending church is biannual tradition on two major holidays: Christmas and Easter — but many churches would like to see people in pews for the other Sunday's of the year.

'The show will always go on' says parish worker

'I don't think God takes attendance. I think the big thing is that people are feeling connected,' said Rev. Andrew Bryce of Summerside Community Church. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

For many Christians, attending church is a biannual tradition on two major holidays: Christmas and Easter — but many churches would like to see people in pews for the other Sundays of the year.

"We had over 600 people," said Karen MacCannell, a pastoral associate at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, a Catholic church in Cornwall, P.E.I., of Christmas weekend.

MacCannell said big crowds are typical at Christmas and Easter, where they need set up extra seating and even an overflow room in the church basement.

But it's not so much the case the rest of the year.

"It definitely fluctuates," said MacCannell.

An open invitation

When it's not a holiday, MacCannell said the parish offers educational programs, such as bible to study, to encourage people to participate.

And she says they also offer children's programs. 

"It's not about recruiting, it's about inviting people and always being open," said MacCannell.

Karen McCannell, associate parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi in Cornwall, P.E.I., said they had over 600 people attend mass over Christmas weekend. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Rev. Andrew Bryce of the Summerside Community Church said creating a strong sense of community encourages people to attend services all year round.

The nondenominational church features contemporary music, open mic performances and group discussions.

"If people make friends right away then they're going to come back," said Bryce.

Staying relevant 

Bryce said he typically sees more than 300 people at Sunday service but emphasizes that's not the church's focus.

"I don't think God takes attendance. I think the big thing is that people are feeling relationally connected," he said.

Rev. Andrew Bryce says keeping people engaged is key to keeping them in pews year-round. (Summerside Community Church/Facebook)

Bryce said he thinks people at Summerside Community Church stay interested all year round because he tries to keep the services current.

"It's just about staying relevant and trying to find unique ways to engage people," he said.

Engaging all ages

Bryce said he also thinks engaging people of all ages creates a wider outreach.

"We are very sensitive to the fact that the church is always supposed to be multi-generational," he said. "That's a huge challenge in this day and age because most organizations cater to one demographic." 

'It's not about recruiting it's about inviting whoever wants to participate to do so,' said Karen McCannell of smaller congregations after Christmas. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

MacCannell also said while it would nice to see more people all year round at St. Francis Assisi parish, there will be always be a service no matter what. 

"The show will always go on, whether there's one person sitting in the pew or 600 sitting in the pew," said MacCannell.

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