Rio Texas United Methodist Churches found ways to make room for more people than ever this Christmas. From worship in a bar to worship under a tent, from small churches adding extra chairs to large churches adding extra services, congregations ensured everyone had a place to celebrate the birth of the Messiah.
First United Methodist Church, Portland is still unable to meet in their usual location due to damage from Hurricane Harvey. That did not stop them from making room for guests on their campus this Christmas. The church has held worship in the local high school while repairs are completed on their sanctuary. For Christmas Eve, they chose to hold two worship services under a large tent on their campus for a total worship attendance of 800.
Bee Creek UMC, Spicewood took their Christmas Eve worship services outside the walls. It began with their Saturday evening "No Walls" worship at Angel’s Icehouse in Spicewood. Lead Pastor Laura Heikes commented on the service, "Silent Night in a bar is a beautiful experience."
Christmas Eve began the next morning in the sanctuary with children acting out the story of Christmas. Worship featured a number of special treats. "For the first time we had a petting zoo after worship."
In the evening, the church worked hard to make room for more guests. "We finally figured out how to make our overflow seating special with candles, a dedicated pastor in that room leading prayer and offering," said Heikes. Christmas that began outside the walls, concluded there with, "candles in the amphitheater to close out worship. Nothing like singing silent night in the crisp Hill Country air," said Heikes.
Bee Creek UMC reported a total Christmas Eve worship attendance of 1042.
Tarrytown United Methodist Church, Austin continued to make new places for new people. Tarrytown created space by offering more services. They held a total of six services beginning at 10:30 a.m., including two services at 5:00 pm. "The simultaneous, and quite different, services at 5:00 pm were both 'fill up the choir loft' and still standing room only," said Senior Pastor Bobbi Kaye Jones.
Tarrytown UMC reported a total worship attendance of 1,690.
First UMC, Victoria also took worship outside on Christmas Eve. They moved their 11:00 am service to the courtyard where they held an informal service around a fire pit. They sang carols, celebrated communion and lit candles.
Walnut United Methodist Church invited their guests inside, so many that members gladly stood out on the porch. The church that averages 65 in weekly worship had a total 124.
Other churches reporting exciting Christmas Eve attendance:
La Trinidad United Methodist Church, Seguin celebrated a bilingual Christmas Eve Candlelight Service including a totally bilingual liturgy including Christmas hymns, and scriptures. La Trinidad reported 80 in worship.
Sterling City United Methodist Church saw a 51% increase in this year's Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, reporting a total attendance of 243.