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Preaching at Christmas? Here’s some advice

People at mass on christmas eve

Tatjana Splichal | Družina

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 12/23/17

From The Wichita Eagle:

Regular church attendees will likely notice strangers filling their pews and parking lots this weekend. They call those people “C ‘n’ E’s” – even has definitions for “Chreaster” – “Those Christians who only show up to religious services on Christmas and Easter.” Pastors at several Wichita churches say it’s their goal to turn the Chreasters into active churchgoers, but they won’t go as far as to alienate the rest of their congregation while they do it. “It’s no secret that you’re definitely preaching to people you may only see once or twice a year,” said the Rev. Andrew Bergkamp, parochial vicar at Church of the Blessed Sacrament, who will deliver the homily at the church’s midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. “It is tempting to preach to your normal congregation, but it would behoove us to reach out to those who normally won’t be here. That is certainly something that I try to be cognizant of, to put myself in their shoes a little bit to see what they need and what will captivate them, certainly.”
Bergkamp joined Blessed Sacrament in June shortly after graduating from seminary. As a first-year priest, he said, he doesn’t have the relationship with his congregation built up to say what some veteran priests might say. “Priests sometimes are very explicit, in a half-joking way, to call people out and say, ‘For those of you who don’t frequent our services, you are welcome and even encouraged to come next weekend and any weekend,’” he said. “I think it just depends on how well established you are at an established parish or church.” The Rev. John Oelze, executive pastor of First Mennonite Brethren Church, said his church’s approach to the two-time-a-year attendees is subtle, with an information card in their bulletin and a wall of information of what the church has to offer. “Certainly for any guests, or even a Chreaster person, we’d love for them to come back further for other things we have here, whether it be events or concerts or small groups or anything like that,” Oelze said. “We’ll encourage people to do that if they come for the Christmas Eve service.”
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