Churches in Ahwatukee Foothills are gearing up for big crowds for Christmas with one congregation expecting attendance for holiday services to triple.
At Mountain View Lutheran Church, on 48th Street south of Elliot Road, Senior Pastor Glenn Zorb said he believes Ahwatukee residents are slightly more religious than the general population because of the large number of retirees who make their homes here.
"These tend to be your more traditional people who attend in higher percentages," Zorb said.
The church, which averages about 1,000 congregants on a typical Sunday, expects attendance on Christmas to triple. Zorb said many who come are active, faithful disciples, but he's under no illusions that everyone is as devoted.
"There are others who come here to be polite to family and friends. I want them to know they're welcome," he said.
Up to 400 children are expected to attend services with their families, as well, he said. The church plans to celebrate a "Birthday party for Jesus" for them at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
"You have to reach a lot of different age level audiences," Zorb said. "We try to make it as fun and instructive for them as possible."
Suzanne Percy, development director at St. Benedict Catholic Church, on 48th Street north of Pecos Road, said attendance swells during Christmas Masses.
"We always have a larger attendance on the holidays, both Christmas and Easter," she said. "We will be packed for almost all of our Masses."
The church, with more than 1,200 families as members, sees the holiday as a time to reconnect with people who don't normally come in to worship on a weekly basis, Percy said.
"Other than celebrating the birth of Christ, our motto is, ‘All are welcome. Come celebrate with us,'" she said.
Percy, like Zorb, said she believes the area is home to a large community of religious people.
"Ahwatukee is a fairly affluent place, and I think that with education comes an appreciation of the gift we're all given," she said.
On the other hand, Brian Goodman, senior pastor at Foothills Baptist Church, northwest of Chandler Boulevard and 21st Street, said he sees a community that is cosmopolitan and fairly secular.
"I don't mean that in a judgmental way," Goodman said. "People are more worried about jobs and how to pay the bills, those kinds of things, and they look at faith as something that's not really relevant to your life that may give you a little hope but doesn't make much of a difference."
The church is expecting about 700 people for Christmas services, he said.
"We really try to concentrate on the significance of Christmas. What does it mean that Jesus was actually born?" Goodman said.
Paul Levino, pastor at the Ahwatukee Assembly of God, northwest of Equestrian Trail and Warner/Elliot Loop, said he believes Ahwatukee is pretty typical in terms of religious observance. The church, with 500 regular members, expects a 20 percent increase in attendance for Christmas, he said.
"I don't think it's any different. It's a good microcosm of America," Levino said.
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