COLUMBIA — Members and visitors at Columbia United Church of Christ experienced a new type of service Saturday night. The Welcome Place is a relaxed, discussion-based sermon held on Saturdays from 5 to 6 p.m.
Approximately 30 people attended, which is much smaller than the usual 145 at a Sunday morning service.
“We saw several folks we haven’t seen in a while,” the Rev. Steve Swope said. “There was one definite visitor. I’m glad we finally started. It’s been a long time coming.”
Plans for the new service have been in the works for more than three years. Once Swope arrived a little over a year ago, more attention was given to planning the new service.
The Welcome Place features several acoustic and contemporary songs, a small sermon and a lot of discussion. Elaine Trout, who usually attends the Sunday morning service, was interested in the unique type of service and said she will probably continue to attend on Saturday nights.
"I was looking forward to this because they are having contemporary music," she said. "I was happy to hear that."
Churchgoers are given the opportunity at the beginning of the service to discuss things they experience throughout the week. Swope then tries to relate their experiences to different Bible teachings. This is supposed to help churchgoers connect their life to their faith.
“I think it helps with fellowship to hear what others are going through,” said Megan Hall, a member of the church.
One of the main goals of the service is to attract newcomers and existing members who are unable to attend the Sunday morning service. Conne Burnham, a parishioner involved in planning the new service, said she hopes to see more college and high school students.
"The United Church of Christ is pretty progressive, but it's also autonomous," she said. "Our Sunday service is very typical. We knew this will be different."
Overall, Swope said he was satisfied with the service and always welcomes newcomers. In his opening remarks, he said anyone is welcome to join the congregation:
“If you’re committed to faith or questioning what you’ve always been taught, or just curious about it all, you are welcome here. Single or partnered, gay or straight, or still figuring it out; tattooed and pierced or not, you’re welcome here. Young or old, rich or poor, or in between; lived here all your life or still unpacking boxes, you are welcome here. Seeking quiet or ready to shout, bursting with something inside or looking to fill an empty space, you’re welcome here. To everyone, wherever you are on life’s journey, you're welcome here.”