Local churches expect a spike in attendance on Easter and Christmas, when folks known among faith communities as CEOs (Christmas and Easter only) visit sanctuaries across the nation.
Reasons for the surge vary. For some visitors, it’s an annual family ritual. Many come by invitation from friends or from Grandma. Some are seekers looking for connection, comfort or direction, a way to center themselves if life has taken a left turn. If you are one of the many who will fill the pews this Sunday, the following are some things you might expect, especially if you have never attended church before:
1. Come as you are
Although you will see many in their Easter finery, there is no reason to go out and buy a special outfit. You will be welcome in your jeans and a tidy shirt.
2. Arrive early
Arrive early, or you might end up sitting in the front row! A gracious usher is usually available to help you scout out a seat, but if you arrive too late, your choices might be limited.
3. Prepare for children
Visit the church’s website or call ahead to learn what is available for kids during the service, or whether they are welcome to stay with you. Check on accessibility, too. Many churches have Web pages dedicated to new visitors’ frequently asked questions, which might be helpful.
4. OK to pass on the plate
It’s OK to pass on the collection plate. New visitors are not expected to contribute, but if it makes you more comfortable, you might want to bring along a few bucks in cash.
5. Know your style
Sizes and styles vary. If simplicity is your thing, there’s a church for that. If multimedia entertainment is for you, there’s a church for that. Again, a visit to their websites will give you a glimpse. Ask churchgoing friends and acquaintances who share your inclinations about their experiences.
6. Consider returning
On Easter, many churches will pull out all the stops, so what you experience might not be a typical service. There might be extra music and fanfare, and extra liturgy. It will give you a sense of what a church is all about, but a visit on a regular Sunday will give a fairer perspective.
Easter is one Sunday when a visitor can blend into the crowd, and come and go without being noticed. It’s a huge act of courage to enter a hallowed space where you might not know a soul. Most churches realize that, and want to welcome you and meet you where you are.
While there is no perfect church, the worst thing that could happen is a rainy egg hunt. That could happen, but the best — and more likely — scenario is you will encounter some very kind, friendly folks who would love to see you return on the following Sunday.
Kay Richardson: 360-735-4550; firstname.lastname@example.org