My husband first began having Christmas Eve services in a barn in 1981, when we were living in Eastern Montana. They have continued for the past 27 yrs and are usually well attended. He will be officiating at 3 services tonight and 1 will be held in a barn. All our senses seem to be heightened when we worship in such a setting. Usually there are hay bales to sit on, and music is sung without accompaniment or with an acoustic guitar. Joel passes his cowboy hat around as an offering plate, and the altar consists of stacked hale bales and a background of stalls. A few animals gather with the congregation ~ a cow or two, maybe a horse, and sometimes sheep or goats. Dogs and cats often meander about hoping for a few strokes from their new friends, or they curl up at the feet of those in attendance. While worshiping in an unheated barn, the people dress in heavy winter clothing and often bring blankets to add warmth, as they celebrate the birth of our Savior. Over the years the locations, the barns, and the congregations have changed, but the tradition continues.
When we were living in central Minnesota in the eighties the media somehow got hold of this “new” idea of worshiping in a barn on Christmas Eve. A TV station from the Twin Cities came up to film our service. This did not go over very well with Joel, so he asked them to take their pictures and interview him ahead of time~ so as not to interrupt the actual service. We did not want to make this a big production. The AP picked up the story and friends in Alabama told us they read about Joel’s barn service in their paper! What we found so comical about the newspaper story was what they said about Joel…and I quote: “The pastor even dressed the part , wearing cowboy boots, jeans, and a cowboy hat.” What they did not realize is that this is how Joel dresses every day except Sunday morning ( and then it is his suit with boots) and this is how it has been for over 30 years.
I miss attending those special services, and so do our children now that they are grown and have moved on, but we have many special memories of years past. The barn service continues each Christmas Eve and more importantly so does the worship celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.