When Bradley Wirth and his wife lived in Seattle, they looked forward to a Sunday evening musical worship service that left them inspired and ready for Monday.
"It was a sung service that was attended by 450-500 people. The St. Augustine Singers chanted the entire service," he said. "It was just stunning."Today, he is the rector at All Saint's Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City - and he is happy that All Saints recently added its own Sunday evening worship.
Among other things, the evening service is an acknowledgment that people's lifestyles have changed and their schedules don't always fit the dressed-in-your-best Sunday morning format.
Many churches such as the Southern Baptist and Assembly of God, as well as some nondenominational churches, have long scheduled Sunday evening worship.
However, churches in other denominations are starting to offer these services.
All Saints holds the regular 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sunday morning worship services but about six months ago added another at 6:30 p.m.
"It was more of a contemplative service, and the evening lent itself to that," the Rev. Wirth said. The Holy Eucharist service is held in the chapel and is attended by fewer than 25 people. Expectations are that it will grow.
Sunday evening worship helps people wind down one hectic week with some spiritual refreshment before heading into another hectic week. It also accommodates people who want to to camping, those who work a swing shift at a hotel or hospital or those who simply want to sleep in on Sunday mornings.
Whatever the motives of church members, the pastors aren't judgmental, and they certainly aren't complaining. If people want to attend church on Sunday evening, that's fine with them.
"It's a matter of convenience for those members who want the service," the Rev. Wirth said.
"Going way back in our history, we had evening services which might be Evensong or an evening Eucharist," he said. "This isn't so much beginning something new, but a rediscovery of something old."
Fr. Hernando Diaz at Sacred Heart Catholic Church said the Sunday evening Spanish-language Mass is the best attended gathering of the week.
"The evening attendance is mostly young adults who work in the morning shifts," he said of his predominantly Hispanic parishioners. "For those who work in the morning, they have the chance to come to church in the evening. It's a custom in Mexico to have Mass on Sunday evening."
For some people this is the only time they can attend church because their work schedules are so long and unconventional.
"The attendance has been good. We have about 400 people for that gathering. The Saturday evening Mass in English will have 50-60 people," Fr. Diaz said.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus Catholic Church in Midvale offers a Spanish Mass every Sunday evening and a Polish Mass a little later in the evening on the first and third Sundays of each month. The Cathedral of the Madeleine offers a Sunday evening Mass in English every week.
Grace Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) in Sandy has been offering Sunday evening services for about eight years, said the Rev. Mark Below.
"We have a number of people who are nurses and waiters and they need an opportunity to come to an evening service," he said, adding that Lutherans in the Midwest tend to schedule Monday or Saturday evening services.
Another reason is purely practical: "Our sanctuary is not big enough to hold all the people we have."
The congregation numbers 700, but the church sanctuary can hold only 150-180 people. The church currently is building a new one. The Sunday evening service complements the two Sunday morning services by making room for everyone.
The evening gathering is less formal and uses a piano instead of an organ, but the substance is the same.
"The evening one is just as well received as the morning ones. With our divine services, we don't try to be competitive in the types of format. It's all conducive to what we teach and confess," the Rev. Below said.
Pastor Mike Gray of Southeast Baptist Church said the Southern Baptists began home Bible studies or evangelistic teaching to children on Sunday evenings about 100 years ago.
"In the 1930s it changed to the whole church having a service. There's been a lot of speculation on it. It might have been centered around farmers in the South having another chance to get together around their schedules."
At any rate, Sunday evening worship is a staple of Southern Baptist tradition. At Southeast Baptist Church, it is not quite so well attended as the morning services, but it is popular nonetheless. The more informal evening event draws mostly fam-ilies, although anyone is welcome to attend.
Southeast Baptist Church holds two Sunday morning Bible studies usually attended by a total of 700 people. The three morning worship services draw a total of about 1,200 people, while the evening service attracts between 170-250 people.
"We're looking toward a Saturday night Bible study and service sometime next year," Pastor Gray said. "A lot of evangelical churches have gone to that. Whenever you have buildings that are full, it becomes a chance to use the parking and the entire building."