Every Sunday is a holiday, or half-holiday, in North America. Some stores may be open, but banks, offices, and government services are usually closed. Sunday closing has a Christian origin. Christians believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on a Sunday morning. So Sunday is known as the “Lord’s Day.” About 30 or 35% of North Americans attend church regularly on Sunday mornings. About the same percentage attend church occasionally. At Christmas and Easter the churches are very full, as people celebrate these two important holy days. Nearly everybody goes to church at least three times. They are baptized or dedicated as a child. Most people are married in a church, and many people are buried after a church service. Church services are usually held Sunday mornings, often at 11:00 am, although there may also be evening services provided. Most services last an hour.
Their purpose is to worship God and to help people focus on religious and moral beliefs. The service is led by a pastor, minister or priest who usually also looks after the people and the business of the church. It is the pastor who delivers the sermon, a twenty-minute talk on a religious or moral matter. Usually members take part in the service. They may lead the singing, read from the Bible, offer prayers for the congregation, take up the collection, or act as ushers. Most churches also have a choir, a group of singers who lead in singing the hymns. There are many cultural traditions connected to going to church. People normally wear their best clothing, and try to be on their best behaviour. Talking or making noise in church is usually considered bad. This is why children often have a separate “children’s church” or Sunday school, where they can be more like children. The Sunday service is the main weekly event at many churches. But nowadays there are a growing number of large “super-churches” which organize all kinds of activities for their members.
These churches usually have large buildings and a large staff to plan and lead various activities. These might include prayer group, counseling and social work, youth programs, social action, fund-raising events, etc. Many large churches have gymnasiums for regular sports activities. At the same time, “house churches” are also becoming very popular. These are small groups of people who meet at private homes. Sometimes a group will meet in a house until they have the money to buy a church. But many people say they prefer to meet in small groups. That way, they get to know one another better. Then they feel comfortable sharing their problems and successes, and praying for each other. Some say that large churches can interfere with getting close to God and other Christians. There are many different “brands” of Christianity. The largest single denomination in North America is Roman Catholicism. Other large Christian “brands” are Episcopalian, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran and Presbyterian. All have slightly different traditions and beliefs. Although in the past, these groups have often been in conflict with one another, today they usually cooperate in working together for their members and the community.