By Michelle Seeber
About 100 people attended the Christmas Eve Service on Wednesday at the First Baptist Church of Portales.
Many were members and regular church attendees of the service that provided music accompanied by a trumpet, a French horn, a violin and a guitar.
If there were any at the service who hadn’t attended church in several months, they didn’t stand up and announce themselves.
That’s because many who only attend church at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter seek anonymity, and at these times, the crowds are bigger, said Philip H. Fike, pastor of the church, who was interviewed the morning of the service.
“This is typical,” he said.
His church, as do all churches in the community and the United States, has some “peripheral people, who, when thoughts turn to community and family and faith, attend church only at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter,” Fike said.
Anonymity, however, is only one of the reasons these people attend church only on spiritual holidays.
Church “has become more of a traditional place for people with a spiritual background,” Fike said, noting that the age group most affected by lack of regular attendance falls between 30 and 45 years old.
The 18-to-30-year-old age group is attending church more regularly, he said.
Fike attributed the younger generation’s better attendance to observation of their parents’ religious practices.
“They find their parents aren’t happy with the way they practice religion,” he said. “They seek deeper Christian roots. Many youth have already tasted a variety of religions and have a spiritual hunger that’s met at Christian celebrations like Christmas and Easter.
On the other hand, he said, the “older than 45 age group tends to ask more questions about Christianity and be more curious.”
George Barna of the Barna Research Group that studies religion and practices in the United States and other countries, recently found that the average attendance of Protestant Sunday services dropped by 11 percent from 1992 to 1998.
According to one of Barna’s polls, 31 percent of the American population has not attended church within the last six months, except for weddings, funerals and holiday services.
Still, according Barna’s findings, only 44 percent of the U.S. population attends church once a week.
That’s better than Britain, where only 26 percent of the population attends church on a weekly basis.