Christmas service timings in Indian Orthodox Churches

It’s Christmas season once again but frankly speaking, I dread the thought of attending the early morning Christmas service in our church. Maundy Thursday, Easter and Christmas are the three occasions when we have early morning service in our churches – 2, 2.30 or 3 am depending on the parish.

cesI am sure there must be several reasons to have an early morning service but I would like to list out few reasons why we should have an evening service instead, on the previous day.

Convenient for the very young & elderly: The very young children and the elderly tend to miss out on these early morning services. Even if the kids come to church, they sleep off most of time. Since a good number of our church members fall in the senior citizen category, a change in timing would be beneficial to them.

Convenient for those who use public transport: People who use public transport (bus / auto / taxi) to reach church on Sundays usually cannot attend the early morning services as they have no way of reaching church so early.

Increased participation by all: An evening service from 6 pm to 10 pm would see increased participation by everyone in the church. This would also give housewives enough time to concentrate on their cooking for the next day, in case of Easter & Christmas. It’s an observation that very few ladies attend early morning services on these days.

Convenient for the clergy: I am sure waking up at 1 am or even before to do an early morning service must be a lot of strain on the priests and those who assist them on the altar. A change of timings would be very helpful to the priests who are stressed out especially during the Holy Week.

I know most of my points are based on convenience rather than the theology or traditions behind them. I grew up in Bhilai under Kolkatta diocese where the timings were changed more than 20 years back to previous evening, as the participation of members decreased. I was in Bangalore for 11 years and some of our churches had the option of an evening service.

I am in Trivandrum since 2007 and a member of St. George Orthodox Cathedral. After shifting to Kerala, I never went for these early morning services but for the last 3-4 years, I have been going to the Canaanite Church at Pattoor or the Jacobite Church near Secretariat for Easter and Christmas service which starts at 6 pm and gets over by 10 pm. At least 25% of the crowd in both these churches are our members.

I spoke to several Priests in Trivandrum city area (we have 10 churches in the capital city) about this idea of changing the timings and most of them have welcomed it but they said they cannot implement this unless there is an order from a higher authority, read the Diocesan Metropolitan. I have sent him a mail in this regard for his views but he is yet to respond.

I feel at least few parishes should explore this idea and see if you can implement this on a trial basis and then take a final decision based on the participation of the people.

Update: As expected the Diocesan Metropolitan never responded to my mail but he issued an official communique to all Parish Priests in the Diocese warning strict action against any Priest who starts the Christmas service before 2 am. While other denominations are progressing, the Orthodox Church seems to be in the retrograde mode.

Last updated December 2015

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