Sunday church services don't fly in New England's summer heat wave
Our take: As the east coast continues to live through a series of tremendous heat waves, some churches found that the intensity of the temperatures were deterring congregants from showing up for services. To address the issue, one pastor in New England moved worship times to Wednesday evenings and found many more people were willing to show up. Other churches have found Wednesday evenings to be more amenable overall, no matter the weather, to larger numbers and have also seen an increase in tithes on that night, prompting some to experiment with moving the traditional Sunday morning serves to Wednesdays on a more permanent basis.
As New England sweltered in early July, Sunday mornings came and went without a single soul showing up for worship in the hot, stuffy sanctuary of First Congregational Church of Salem, N.H. Even the pastor stayed home.
But God wasn't forgotten. Worship just waited until Wednesday evenings, when the cool comfort of the basement fellowship hall drew as many as 40 to sing and pray. That's 50 percent more than the church attracted when it met on summer Sundays.
"If people take a break from worshipping, they sometimes don't pick that habit back up," said Owen Williams, a longtime deacon at First Congregational, a United Church of Christ congregation. But because Wednesdays keep people coming, "we have a depth of commitment throughout the year."
Summer has a way of thinning out pews on Sunday mornings as the sun-loving faithful take to trails, outdoor markets and backyard projects. The predictable pattern poses challenges, especially for smaller congregations.
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