LEAGUE CITY — It’s not always been easy to get to church on the first day of the week. When the Christian church was founded, many early converts served as slaves in the Roman Empire. Their freedom to travel to services was, shall we say, somewhat restricted.
Sundays back then also weren’t set aside for either church (or NFL football.) In rural America, there often weren’t enough circuit riding preachers to fill every pulpit every Sunday, so the mostly rural, farming population sometimes had to do without formal Sunday services. And today, a subset of hardworking folk, largely in the food and hospitality industry, find that they must work every weekend in order to make ends meet.
Sunday in the restaurant business is big business, especially in tourist-driven locations like Galveston County.
One local pastor’s answer? Why not have church on Wednesdays instead.
“People are busy on Sundays,” said the Rev. Ryan Lehtinen of his congregation at Church on Wednesday (CW). “We have always sought to be a church for people who don’t go to church. When we talk to our friends who don’t go to church, one of the reasons is because Sunday doesn’t work for them, so they’ve written church off completely.”
Jeff Frugia is one of the folks that CW was designed for. He couldn’t be happier about having this mid-week option. So much so that he said that his kids are upset if they have to miss services even when a family member is sick.
“With my job field, I have to work every single Sunday,” he said. “That’s why I enjoy coming here with my whole family. I see church folks every Sunday to my business and eat. They are nice people and they are also very good tippers.”
Clear Creek Community’s Sunday and Wednesday churches both feature contemporary music, relaxed preaching and well-executed audio/visual accoutrements. The Wednesday-edition church meets at 7 p.m. weekly at 999 Egret Bay Blvd. N. in League City. It offers a full slate of youth activities as well in parallel with its worship service.
In turns out that work conflicts aren’t the only barriers to Sunday attendance. The prevalence of joint-custody agreements also seem to be part of the mid-week congregation’s appeal.
“Parents who have shared custody of their kids and get them every other weekend could previously only bring them to church every other week,” Lehtinen said. “Church on Wednesday has enabled them to make it part of their weekly routine. That’s huge for them.”
There are three friends here tonight who happen to work together at a local Discount Tire dealership: William Young, Jesus Saucedo and Tim Wayne Hall. Sporting their black workday uniforms, they stand out from the crowd as they file out from the auditorium.
“I started coming to church again here on Wednesday night, I can’t come on Sundays for family reasons,” Saucedo said. “It’s great music and a little more casual.”
Hall attends Clear Creek’s Sunday services weekly as well as CW. He invited his automotive co-workers to visit and they have been coming together for just more than a month.
Not all the attendees are blue-collar workers. Dr. Catalin Jurnalov, a physician at UTMB, helped start CW.
“Lives are being changed, there’s no question,” he said. “We do the Lord’s Supper almost every Wednesday, which I think is a big draw; we have a community dinner on the first Wednesday of each month and we have the coffee — which is Starbucks. We started with around 120 people and now have over 200.”
Lehtinen is bullish on the future and encouraged by the growth.
“My hope is that Church on Wednesday will continue to be filled with people who are coming to church for the first time or the first time in a long time,” he said.