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Published: Friday, January 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Churches change service times to accommodate Hawks fans

SNOHOMISH -- It started as a joke on Facebook.
After the Seahawks' win this past Sunday over the Washington Redskins, Daniel Espy, a pastor at The Bridge Church, posted this note:
"Attention Seattle: All church services in the greater metro area will be moved to 7 a.m. next Sunday. This assures you are home in time for kickoff and the Seahawks are all prayed up."
Espy, 36, then began to get phone calls and emails from people asking for him to really switch the service time.
"There seemed to be a great interest in changing the schedule because of the 10 a.m. start against the Atlanta Falcons. So I began wondering if I could pull it off without inconveniencing everybody else at church," Espy said. "Then, our other leaders gave the OK."
Sunday worship at The Bridge, located north of Snohomish, usually at starts at 10 a.m., but on game day, people plan to gather at 8 a.m.
The church even had a roadside banner made to attract people to its game-day service. "Russell wants you here," the banner says. Included in the service will be a video of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson visiting kids at Seattle Children's Hospital.
"By saying to our people that it's OK to love God and the Seahawks, we are a blessing to our church and our community," Espy said. "And we are blessed to be able to do that."
The Bridge is a young church, Espy said, and "not at all stodgy."
"We are serious about following Jesus," he said. "But you can follow Jesus and have fun, too."
A self-described rabid college football fan from Alabama, Espy said Seahawk football is a big part of the culture in the Northwest.
"Football's in the DNA here," Espy said. "The Bible calls us to meet people where they are and that's what this change of schedule is about."
The North Sound Church in Edmonds figured this out a couple of years ago when it offered a tailgate party at church before a televised Seahawks game.
"It was fun, so we decided to do it again this Sunday," North Sound administrative assistant Becky Andersen said.
A free tailgate breakfast at 8 a.m. Sunday is planned by North Sound Church at the Edmonds Conference Center, 201 Fourth Ave. People who plan to attend are urged to wear Seahawk colors.
The breakfast is to be followed by a celebration service from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. with Barry Crane, pastor of North Sound, offering a message of inspiration. Normally, Sunday services at the church are at 8, 9:30 and 11 a.m. To make sure the church meets the needs of its congregation, a regular service also is scheduled at 6 p.m. Saturday in the church sanctuary at 404 Bell St.
"Our change for the Seahawk game was well received last time, and it's sure to be again this Sunday," she said.
Steve Thompson, pastor of the Victory Foursquare Church in Marysville, played football for Lake Stevens High, the University of Washington and the New York Jets.
Nobody loves football more than Thompson, but his church service remains scheduled for the usual time of 10 a.m. Sunday.
"We might see a few less people at church Sunday, but there are many people plan to record the game and have parties in the afternoon," Thompson said. "We've canceled church only one time. We had a big freeze and the pipes broke and flooded the sanctuary with 2 inches of water. I had tickets that day to the Seahawks game against the Jets and I left early, but I didn't cancel church for football."
Nina Therres of Lake Stevens is president of the Sea Hawkers Booster Club of Snohomish County, a Seahawks season ticket holder and the service coordinator at Cascade Community Church in Monroe.
Therres arrives early on Sundays to turn on the lights and do other jobs in preparation for Cascade's three morning services. She attends the 8 a.m. service. If there is a home game, she arranges to leave, otherwise she is around to make sure the church services run smoothly the rest of the morning.
"So this Sunday, I will focus on worshipping at 8 a.m. and when it's time for the kick off at 10 a.m., I will have my phone in my pocket and the game on through the Bluetooth in my ear. I sit in the back and stay quiet," Therres said. "If the game gets crazy and I need to make noise out loud, I will step out for a moment. Go Seahawks."
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.
Story tags » EdmondsLake StevensMarysvilleMonroeChurchesSeahawks

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