With Christmas Day falling in the middle of the week this year, many local congregations have chosen to hold traditional community celebrations on the weekends while encouraging families to enjoy the holiday together at home.
Lee Padilla, minister at Tooele’s Church of Christ, said the church’s regular Wednesday services would be canceled on Christmas to allow congregants to travel and spend time with family during the holiday. Padilla taught a Christmas-themed lesson last Sunday during the church’s regular Sunday service.
The Bible Baptist Church, located at 286 N. 7th St. in Tooele, plans to combine Christmas and New Year’s with a candlelight testimonial service at 6 p.m. on Dec. 26. All members of the community are invited to attend and share how they have seen the hand of God in their lives this year, said Pastor Jeff Sinner.
Stansbury Park Baptist Church held a low-key Christmas service on Sunday, but doesn’t have any official activities planned during the week, said Joe Gearo, an elder for the church.
The congregation is currently without a dedicated building, and the space it rents is not available during the week for a service, he said. Additionally, the congregation is currently between pastors, with a new pastor expected to arrive in January.
The Mountain View Baptist Church in Grantsville held a scaled-down version of the congregation’s traditional Christmas service on Dec. 22, with regular Sunday service in the morning and caroling at the church that evening. The church typically hosts a little Christmas program in addition to the caroling, said Assistant Pastor Daniel Parish, but this year decided to stick to just caroling.
Other local churches plan to hold traditional Christmas worship services as usual. Pastor Debi Paulsen of the United Methodist Church, said her Tooele congregation has planned a family Christmas service for 4:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, though she expects attendance may be low. All members of the community are invited to attend.
The First Baptist Church in Tooele will hold its annual candlelight service at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Participants will read from biblical account of Christ’s birth and sing Christmas carols. The service is open to all and, as running a 17-year-old tradition, often attracts residents outside the church’s regular congregation.
The New Life Christian Fellowship will hold two candlelight services on Christmas Eve—one at 4:30 p.m. and another at 6 p.m. The services will feature the church’s all-volunteer dance team, which focuses on contemporary, Jazz, and hip-hop dance choreography.
Mountain of Faith Lutheran church has also planned a candlelight Christmas Eve service at 7 p.m. The service will feature music by the Tooele County Choral Society. All are invited to attend.
St. Marguerite Catholic Church will hold multiple Christmas masses, to which all are invited. The 5 p.m. children’s mass on Christmas Eve will include a Christmas pageant put on by children from the congregation. The traditional “midnight” mass will begin at 8 p.m., and a Christmas morning mass will follow at 10 a.m.
Christmas services are typically among the most popular for the church, Father Sam Dinsdale said, and are often well attended by non-Catholic locals as well. Oftentimes, more than 50 percent of those who attend the midnight mass are not Catholic.
Though many congregations have scaled back their celebrations this year, Padilla said it hasn’t diminished the importance of the season.
“It is a good time,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to give, feel good, and help others.”
Most Latter-day Saint congregations celebrate independently in advance of the holiday, and often choose to cancel regularly scheduled activities that conflict with the holidays. Check with ward leadership for information about ward-specific information.
Attempts to reach several other area congregations for Christmas service schedules were unsuccessful at press time. Paulsen said several congregations in the area are currently between pastors, which could have made some churches difficult to contact. Those congregations may still hold traditional Christmas services this year; check with church leadership for more information.