Returning to Two Services: A History

by Walter Andrews

Since announcing the return to two services in the Fall (starting September 23), there has been a some questioning whether this is the right time. I thought it would be a good idea to give a little background and a little history that might help you understand why we are returning to the two services format that we have used since the 1980s. I certainly understand if the single service seems more comfortable to some of you. Indeed, you are not alone in feeling that way. But let me start with a little history:

When Rev. Leon Hopper came to East Shore, the church was faced with some difficult choices. The buildings that housed the classrooms, some administrative offices, in fact, all of our buildings other than the sanctuary had aged beyond repair. Under Leon’s guidance, the Board and the membership committed the church to a multi-year capital fund drive and building project based on the premise that East Shore would grow to become the “beacon” church on the Eastside. The move to two services at that point was a key element in creating space for the growth of programs, engagement with the community, and opportunities for worship, all of which were intended to create a church welcoming to a diverse group of new members. The investment we made in the facilities we have today was based on growing the church to a size that could comfortably support the initial cost and maintenance of our new buildings. This was a decision that obligated the church to membership growth for the future and, even then, there was a significant number of people who mourned the loss of the smaller church in which we knew everyone. The church in which there are people whom we do not know and may not ever have spoken with took a lot of getting used to by many of us—myself included—many who nonetheless ended up working hard to raise capital funds and build for a larger and more diverse church.

The single-service church is a small church, this is what we have learned during this difficult interim. And a small church—especially an ageing small church—cannot support the facilities we now have and the programs that we need to offer to attract younger new members. I can, if you wish, give you details about the situation with RE, but for a couple of examples: the reduced time-span of a single service format meant that some of our most popular children’s programs, the Our Whole Lives programs, which serve both East Shore and the small churches in our area, coexisted very uncomfortably (for parents, students, teachers, and staff alike) with our regular curriculum because of space and time needs. Also, with a single service, teachers in RE cannot attend services (I am able to attend about 4 services per year while I am teaching) and space for adult programs was greatly restricted. The necessary involvement of young families in RE meant that parents and other volunteers had very little contact with the service and surrounding activities.

Lastly, looking around in the services I have been able to attend, it becomes obvious that we are growing older as a group and this does not bode well for our future unless we can provide paths for younger people to engage with the church. In a church of the size that East Shore needs to be in order to support its lovely campus and facilities, we are not going to know everyone, but two services will not diminish the main service, it will only provide more time and space in which to meet the needs of more members. Two services have worked well for us since the mid-80s and, I believe, they will continue to do so In the future.

Because we must to continue to be a growing and vibrant church, the decision was made to go to two services. According to our policy based governance system this was an operational decision made by the minister and staff with input from the operational teams most directly impacted and oversight and approval by the Board.