Busy Sundays are no longer an excuse to skip church.
By D.A. WILKINSON
VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR
NORTH LIMA -- A new church has decided to skip Sunday services.
The Church at Glenellen will have its first service at 7 p.m. Saturday. Come Sunday morning, there will be no service.
The church is forsaking traditional Sunday worship with an eye toward becoming a new type of church.
The church is targeting older people, those who may have to work on Sunday, those who have drifted away from church, or those who never attended church.
It's the brainchild of Pastor Paul Easton and Jim McMurray, managing director of Glenellen Senior Suites and Villas, 9661 Market St., where church services will take place.
Easton envisions a sign reading The Church at Glenellen with the word Saturday inserted like an accent mark between the first two words to emphasize its meeting day.
Easton also serves as pastor of Faith Community Church in Youngstown. For many years, he's been an interim pastor specializing in churches in conflict. Although he is a licensed minister, he has never been ordained, so as to avoid complaints in disputes that he was on the side of the church hierarchy.
But The Church at Glenellen is a personal dream.
Finally a reality
"For the last three years, I thought I'd love to start my own church and do it right," Easton said.
Finally, he said, a friend asked him when he was going to do it.
Easton got in touch with McMurray, a high school acquaintance. They had renewed their friendship when Easton was interim pastor at Central Christian Church on the city's South Side, where McMurray was a member.
Easton said the thought of having his own church "blew my mind. We talked about it and said, 'Why not?'"
The Hazel Sebastian Chapel at Glenellen Senior Suites and Villas has seating for 100 people. Glenellen offers both independent and assisted living. It has 63 residents.
So with room to spare in the chapel, and with an altar and cross in place, the men had their location.
McMurray, who also is a church trustee, said 16 churches or organizations already provide Mass and other religious services and programs at the chapel. Those will all continue.
But McMurray said that the residents had indicated they wanted their own church.
The church is open to all but it isn't trying to draw people away from other churches, Easton said.
The idea of a Saturday night service is not unusual. Easton noted that many Catholic churches have offered it for years with good attendance.
Glenellen's service may appeal to the families of Glenellen's residents, who can attend the Saturday service and then go to their regular church on Sunday, Easton said.
The church also may attract those whose Sunday mornings are occupied by their jobs, driving their children to soccer practice, or who have tee times at the golf course. People who are out running errands or dining out on Saturday evening may find the Saturday service fits into their schedule.
The church also is targeting middle-aged and older residents, who are a large portion of the Valley's population.
Easton plans to use modern language in the services instead of formal church terms. Still, the pastor cautioned, "We're not dumbing down the church."
Many churches have gone to services with contemporary music and other modern trappings to attract people. But Easton said research showed that people attend church "to seek something spiritual."
The new church may also reunite members of the former Central Christian Church. Invitations have been sent to Central Christian's former members, McMurray said.
The remaining congregants of the once-prominent Disciples of Christ church were scattered when it ceased to exist Dec. 31, 2001.
The church was established in 1895 and was first located at 113 Market St. in Youngstown. It moved to 3000 Market St. on the South Side after World War II.
Merger talks with other Disciples of Christ churches didn't work out. McMurray said a plan to move the church out of the city also didn't work.
Central Christian gave its building and property to New Beginning Assembly of God, an inner-city ministry.
Faith Community Church, where Easton now serves, is affiliated with the United Church of Christ. He said The Church at Glenellen will be affiliated with the UCC and the Disciples of Christ.
For more information on the church, call (330) 758-1436 or (330) 549-9661.