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Churches get the gift of bigger crowds for Christmas
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Christmas services


  • Family service at noon, other services at 5, 7, 9 and 11 p.m. Wednesday, First United Methodist Church of Gainesville, 2780 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville. 770-536-2341.
  • Family service at 1 p.m., candlelight lessons and carols at 5 p.m., candlelight Communion at 11 p.m. Wednesday. First Presbyterian Church, 800 S. Enota Drive, Gainesville. 770-532-0136.
  • Christmas pageant and communion at 4 p.m., Music for Strings at 10 p.m. and A Festival of Holy Eucharist for Christmas, 10:30 p.m. Wednesday. Grace Episcopal Church, 431 Washington St., Gainesville, 770-536-0126.
  • 5:30-7 p.m. Wednesday, First Baptist Church, 751 Green St. NW, Gainesville. 770-534-7354 or 770- 532-8861
  • Candlelight service, 6 p.m. Wednesday, St. Paul United Methodist Church, 404 Washington St. NW, Gainesville. 770-532-2977.
  • 6 p.m. Wednesday, Lanier Hills Church, 3129 Duckett Mill Road, Gainesville. 770-297-4673.
  • 7 and 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 600 S. Enota Drive, Gainesville. 770-532-2428.
  • 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, Lakewood Baptist Church, 2235 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville. 770-532-6307.
  • Christmas Day communion, Gainesville. 10 a.m. Thursday, Grace Episcopal Church, 431 Washington St., Gainesville, 770-536-0126.
  • Christmas Day service, Gainesville. 10 a.m. Thursday. Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 600 S. Enota Drive, Gainesville. 770-532-2428.

Flowery Branch

  • 5-6 p.m. Wednesday, Blackshear Place Baptist Church, 3428 Atlanta Highway, Flowery Branch. 770-534-7058.


  • The Ancient Future Christmas Eve Worship gathering (alternative, not contemporary) is at 5:30 p.m. Traditional candlelight services with carols will be at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. McEver Road United Methodist Church, 3606 McEver Road, Oakwood. 770-532-3160,  or


n Candlelight service, Clermont. 6 p.m. Wednesday, Concord Baptist Church, 640 Main St., Clermont. 770-983-7272.

With Christmas days away, many area churches are preparing for large crowds at services this year.

"We always have basically a standing-room-only crowd," said Steve Coldiron, the associate minister of music at First Baptist Church on Green Street in Gainesville.

Coldiron said extra chairs will be set up in the sanctuary to provide more seating for the service.

First Baptist offers just one service at 5:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, known as "carols and candlelight."

Many churches offer a number of services to accommodate the expected crowds on Christmas Eve, but Coldiron said First Baptist needs only one.

"Our sanctuary seats over 1,600," Coldiron said.

In contrast, Gainesville First United Methodist Church offers five services Christmas Eve, starting at noon and ending with the last service at 11 p.m.

Senior Pastor Terry Walton said his church holds five services for a few different reasons.

"Our tradition mainly points us to Christmas Eve, and that just has more to do with family scheduling than anything else. We want to give people different options," Walton said.

Besides convenience, space is also a factor.

"Our sanctuary seats around 700 people and we will have somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 people on Christmas Eve." Walton said

Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville will offer three different services to celebrate Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, there will be a 4 p.m. and a 10:30 p.m. holy communion service.

The first service will be more family oriented with a children’s choir performance and a pageant.

"The church will be full (300-plus people) with church members, their families and visitors," Rev. Doug Dailey, rector of Grace Episcopal, said in an e-mail.

The later service is what is known as the "high Episcopal Communion service," which includes "lots of ritual, including incense," Dailey said.

Dailey predicts the church will be packed for both services, but the Christmas Day service will likely see lighter crowds.

"A quiet Communion service without music is offered each year on Christmas Day in our chapel. Having such a service is unique, I think, to Episcopal and Catholic churches. The congregation usually numbers between 20 and 60 people. It’s the perfect start to the day," Dailey said.

Many churches typically see their services fill up around Christmas.

Walton said Gainesville First United Methodist has seen an upswing in attendance this December.

"People who are not normally in the habit of going to church on a regular basis do look to the church and toward the church in high church seasons like Christmas Eve and Easter. Church consultants tell us now that there will be more people who look to church and want to experience the religious part of the holiday at Christmas Eve now more than they do at Easter," Walton said.

He also thinks hard times may have more people looking to attend church services.

"I can’t help but wonder if we might not see a few more because of the economy. People are turning to the church for help and comfort and encouragement in these difficult days," Walton said.