Super Bowl Sunday tests pastors’ flexibility

By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal

When considering the millions spent on Super Bowl advertisements, the tonnage of chicken wings, chips and dips consumed and the overwhelming fanaticism, it might feel like football is a religion all its own.
The heralded matchup even takes place on a Sunday, leaving pastors to decide how best to adjust services and activities to accommodate the game.
Origins, a seed church of the Orchard, holds its Sunday service in the evening, but for the Super Bowl, the congregation will meet in the morning.
“There’s definitely a tension there where we have to ask ourselves ‘are we compromising ourselves as a church,’” said Jason McAnally, pastor at Origins.
Last year, Origins had a Super Bowl party at Tupelo’s Salvation Army, where the congregation mingled with the nonprofit’s residents and provided a projection screen, edibles, and even Astroturf to make party-goers feel like they were on the field.
“We wanted to do more than just give charity. We wanted to take the occasion of the game and use it to let people know that they are part of the community,” he said.
Neil Davis, pastor of the Journey Church in Guntown, said the game is a way to reach out to people on common ground.
“We put a lot of emphasis on creating and maintaining a missional community,” Davis said. “The Super Bowl is a common interest that connects people, and provides an opportunity to speak into someone’s life in a very natural way.”
The church does not have a Sunday night service, but Davis said the church will show the game on a projection screen at the Extreme Kids building in Saltillo, and encourages anyone to attend.
St. Luke United Methodist and First Presbyterian also lack a Sunday night service, but take advantage of the game for their annual SOUPer Bowl events.
First Presbyterian’s Dan Brasfield said church members prepare soup and bread dishes to serve after Sunday morning service at no charge. They ask the congregation to donate the amount they would have spent on Sunday lunch to support the church’s mission trips.
“It’s a fun way of raising money, and it only ties into the game because of the play on words,” Brasfield said.
West Jackson Street Baptist Church has tried various Super Bowl events in the past, but Student Minister Chris O’Daniel said the church has struck a balance this year. He said the church will shift its regular 6 p.m. service to 4 p.m., and hold Super Bowl fellowship after, where the game will be viewed at the church.
“Even faithful members who only miss one or two services, one of those will be Super Bowl,” O’Daniel said. “It’s a hard line to walk between doing what God wants and being worldly.”
O’Daniel said in previous years, the church has tried to ignore the event all together. The services during the game were poorly attended, and ran danger of dividing the congregation. The Super Bowl, O’Daniel said, is simply too big to ignore.

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