Everything Must Change Part 2

Well the response was great to the last post, 15 comments so far and the discussion continues. I would like to go out a limb, okay that is usually where I am anyway, but here I am again on this limb. What do folks think about an alternative worship experience? Let me define what I am thinking.

Sunday is the traditional day that worship takes place in Christian Churches around the globe. Some Evangelical Church have mid week services and some have Sunday evening services. Many Catholic Churches are experimenting with Sunday evening Masses and of course they have mass during the week. What would you think of offering a Divine Liturgy on Saturday night or making a Divine Liturgy available during the week for folks who can’t come on Sunday for various reasons? Some people have to work on Sundays and so they cannot make it to church but would love to come. Some younger people who like to go out on Saturday night, have trouble getting up on Sunday morning. Now I know we should not make excuses for people but why not make church more accessible to them? This would not replace the present Sunday morning Liturgy as the main liturgy of the week.

Let the comments begin!


  1. Fr John Koenig, in his study of the Eucharist named “The Feast of the World’s Redemption” suggests that Saturday night may have, in fact, been the primary day of worship.

    A) Saturday Night *WAS* Sunday morning to the Early Jewish/Gentile COmmunities.
    B) Since the local Jewish Community had worked out w/ the Authorities to have off on Sabbath, the meal at the end of Sabbath (the first meal of Sunday) was a logical time for the Local Churches to meet.
    C) Paul preached ’til “Midnight” in Acts. This Makes sense if we’re talking from “After supper until midnight” but not at all if we’re thinking “After sunrise until Midnight”
    D) We still see vestiges of this in our VIgil Service and in the Paschal rites.

    Parallel to this: the Antiochian community under Mtr P has allowed for more-regular Evening DL in communities where needed, essentially using the Pre-Sanctified as a model, and appending an Anaphora onto Vespers (with all the readings included). OCA Bp T (formerly of “The West”) refused to allow such events in his diocese so this might be an interesting conversation w/ yer own Bp.

    I can easily imagine such a service being constructed from the existing Vesper rites (following Antioch) or even on the restored rites of New Skete.

    An secondary possibility, although probably not for an Orthdoox Community, is a repetition of the Presanctified on a weekly basis (without all the St Ephrem’s and prostrations, etc). My former ECUSA congregation had such a rite on Sunday nights, including all the readings and a sermon, and a prayer before and after communion from the reserved sacrament, celebrating the entire community’s unity even though at different events.

  2. i think saturday evening service would be a great thing. being a nurse puts me in a position where every other sun. i have to work. this is a new world lots of people work at service oriented jobs and have no choice but to work on sundays. i don’t think mid week would work out very well people work and are tired when they get home.linda

  3. I’m not sure if these proposals are in line with Byzantine Orthodox canons or not, but it seems that the earliest Christians may well have celebrated the Sunday Divine Liturgy on Saturday night, and, of course, Rome has been doing this for years. Also, there is nothing which prohibits a mid-week Liturgy, but it probably should not be presented as an alternative to the weekly, Sunday Liturgy even if that is how it functions, pastorally, for people who are routinely unable to attend on Sundays, as, for example, Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Polamalu is Orthodox, and he and his family are reported to routinely attend Liturgy together on Tuesdays at a monastery, at least during Football season.

  4. Well, many Orthodox Christian churches down in the South have Wednesday evening services (vespers, compline or a moleben), since it's part of the local culture: most Protestant churches have services on the same night, so "locals" expect it. Given the relative brevity of those services, it also allows an opportunity for preaching, Bible study, discussion or a Q&A; session. The date and time also accommodate the curious and other seekers.

    As for evening Liturgies, I've been to a few on feast day eves. Some were full-blown vigils (vespers, then matins, then Liturgy). Others were modeled after the vesperal Liturgies celebrated on Christmas Eve, Theophany Eve and Holy Saturday. Still others were ordinary Liturgies. While evening Liturgies on feast day eves might cause a fit among rigorists when it comes to the typicon, I do see how they could meet a pastoral need in accommodating working people who might otherwise miss out on the eucharist on feast days. Like it or not, we do not live in an Orthodox Christian culture that runs by the Church's calendar, and many workers can only get so many days or so much time off.

    Saturday morning Liturgies would be appropriate, especially for remembering the dead in Christ who have "fallen asleep" in the Lord and rest until the universal resurrection, for that day is the Sabbath, the "day of rest."

    But as for Saturday evening Liturgies or other "alternatives" to the usual Sunday Liturgy, I think we have to be careful here. If our motivation is "allowing the kids Saturday night out on the town," it sounds like teaching people they can "eat their cake and have it too." Christianity does involve commitment, and commitment entails setting priorities, adjusting schedules and sometimes making sacrifices, forgoing even a good thing in exchange for something better. There's also a danger in reducing our worship to the Liturgy, without vespers or matins. Our hymnody — when translated and executed well — is a virtual graduate school of Christian theology and morality. But most of it takes place during vespers and matins; very little of it during the Liturgy! So when those services are dropped, we miss out on a huge chunk of education and inspiration.

    Yes, in the Liturgy, we pray for "those who are absent for honorable reasons." Some people have no choice but to work on Sundays, but we have to be careful that we're not indulging our own laziness: "Well, if I want to party late on Saturday or sleep in Sunday morning, I can always catch church on Wednesday evening." People have a funny attitude to worship: they say they love the Lord, but want to spend minimal time with him in worship. One would think love would make someone want to spend more time with his/her beloved, not less!

    Of course, any of this depends on the bishop's blessing…

  5. Although I'm a Roman Catholic, I thought I would put my 2 cents in here. I enjoy reading your blog and did read that last post with all 15 comments. They were really great and inspiring comments too! I was surprised when you wrote about weekday Mass, I took it for granted that it was celebrated daily. I love daily Mass and uniting myself with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. He gives me strength to continue my day with all its troubles, especially my full time job taking care of my wife who has kidney disease. Sundays are certainly special because we celebrate the Resurrection, so Mass/Divine Liturgy should always be available for the faithful, but it could be in the evening time, perhaps after Vespers. Personally, I prefer Mass during the week because its very low key (no choir, etc.) very few parishioners attending. Prayer responses are more meaningful as I unite mine with the priest. It's intense! Plus you get to know those attending church daily and form prayer groups. We have 2 going now, which are held weekly (Tue & Fri) after Mass. It's great to be able to pray and console one another; Christian Community in action! So that's my 2 cents from an old retired deacon in Florida!
    Deacon John Giglio

  6. Gregory,

    You assume that parishes have Vespers and Orthros on a regular basis. Most US parishes would not have these services. Here in the village we do celebrate Orthros although it is a mosified service and it usually is only the cantor and myself. Most of the “crowd” comes just in time for Liturgy.

    In Orthodoxy we have something called Economia (I might have spelled that wrong) that allows us to m ake certain adjustments for this from a pastoral perspective. I am not suggesting that we tell people go out and get drunk on Saturday night because you can come to church on Saturday. No the reality is people do not come to church on Sunday hence the low attendance in almost all churches in this country. I am advocating Economia and an adjustment.

    As far as the bishops blessing is concerned. My experience has been that most of our bishop have little or no pastoral experience and most are from the “old country” I know ther are exceptions to this rule but for the most part this is the case. They have no idea what it is like in the parish and think that we should have Vespers and Orthros and all the people will come. They are very wrong. Economia allows us pastors to make changes for our parishes and thats what we do here.

  7. Dear Father Peter,

    Bless, Father!

    As an Orthodox Christian, I am aware of what “economia” (or “oikonomia”) is, and it’s a good thing when judiciously and pastorally used by bishops, and insofar as much as they allow, by their assistants, the presbyters.

    However, if we have low attendance at Sunday services — barring a scenario where the vast majority of parishioners are employed in jobs that require them to work the graveyard shift on Saturday night or all day Sunday — no amount of economia is going to solve that. The problem there is lukewarm or nonexistent faith or an unwillingness to make a Christian commitment and exert an effort — which no amount of innovative scheduling is going to overcome.

    Like I said before, lots of people say they believe in and love God, yet seem to be loath to spend any time with him in prayer and worship. Can you imagine a marriage surviving on that dynamic? If we have faith and are willing to put it into action, then we have a church. If we don’t, then we do not have one. I think our smaller, struggling parishes really have to honestly assess themselves and come to terms with the fact that, in the end, the math is really that simple. There’s no such thing as church life with no sacrifice and inconvenience.

    Kissing your right hand,


  8. Gregory,

    Thanks for the help spelling that word! I thought I had it spelled correct and you know how spell checkk it.

    You are exactly right with the math example. We all need to face facts that the Sunday morning attendance is shrinking. That is what has happened here. We also have 3 Orthodox Churches in a town of about 14,000 people.

    Thanks for your comments, nice to have yoy amongst us.

  9. Gregory, I don’t think that’s true at all.

    We’ve imposed a monastic typikon on parochial life. That use can just as easily be returned from whence it came. I know a couple of monasteries that don’t even have the time to put in a “full typikon” set of services any more. And, I rather like New SKete’s (for example) attempt to recapture the entirely fun, interactive liturgical life of Hagia Sophia rather than simply replicating the Monastic Typikon.

    Small parishes need to find ways to inculcate a prayer life, yes: but the answer is not to drive the parish clergy batty by serving longer and more complex liturgical schedules. Especially since a vast majority of the smaller places have worker-priests, or priest with multiple communities. There are other options besides using that very weak “marriage” analogy.

    Saturday evening liturgies – no more than Sunday morning ones – provide opportunities to sin as well as opportunities to commune with God. One is not automatically better or worse. In fact I’d love a Saturday evening mass exactly because it would give me something to do with my community on a Saturday night *and* keep me out of trouble. And it would be nice to have one weekend day to sleep in. Only in the days when I was a pseudo monastic uber-pious convert did I have the time to spend 2.5 hours in Church Sat night and the same again on Sunday Morning. Yet I can imagine a 3.5 hour event on Satuday night: a pot luck, a Bible Study, a liturgy…

    It would be a nice night – and leave very little time to “have a night out”.

  10. but i’m not sure what a saturday night divine liturgy would do that saturday night great vespers cannot do.

    as a convert, i understand theosis as uniting with Christ – i conform myself to Him. i find that in the church as well – it’s about me conforming to the truth rather than making the truth conform to me.

    not that some things might not change out of pastoral concern, but it is a constant protestant desire to change things to fit a yearning. many of those churches spend all of their time attempting to become relevant – but the people come and go through a spiritual revolving door as they all search for what God is doing “now”. my protestant friends that attend these types of churches and “seeker sensitive” churches don’t tend to stay in them. they leave and continue looking for what they themselves find lacking.

  11. David,

    I am suggesting a Eucharistic Liturgy on Saturday. The main difference would be communion.

    Most parishes do not offer Vespers on Saturday nights and if they do they are poorly attended. Saturday night is a prime opportunity that we are missing to reach out to people that for whatever reason Sunday is not convineniet for them.

    In a perfect world all of our churches would be filled on Sunday but reality is they are not.

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