The world's going to hell in a handbasket, says the Rev. Carroll Allen, pastor of Ringgold Church of God, and he just can't stand around and do nothing.
So starting Friday night, Allen will be holding a midnight church service for people who, for whatever reason, have difficulties making it to the two traditional services on Sunday and one on Wednesday night.
"It might be people who can't get out of bed on a Sunday morning or people who work during the hours of a typical church service," says Allen, 59, who has been a full-time preacher for 33 years, the last 13 at Ringgold Church of God. "We've got to reach people -- it's what Jesus told us to do, and having this midnight service is another avenue.
"I have a friend who drives a shuttle back and forth from Chattanooga to the Atlanta airport. He gets back in Chattanooga after midnight, and he'll go grocery shopping at 2 a.m. I'm targeting people like this who can't go to church services because it does not fit their work schedule. There are a lot of people these days who work these crazy hours," Allen says.
The idea to hold a weekly midnight service was sparked several years ago by a hotel clerk who worked third shift, he says.
"When she realized I was a preacher, she asked me how come churches don't offer those services to people," he says. "I didn't have an answer, but it did get me to thinking about it."
The Rev. David Smith, pastor of Monroe Church of God in Monroe, Ga., appreciates Allen's efforts to start a midnight service.
"As a young man, I worked the night shift at a Chattanooga area mill. I understand the frustration of not being able to attend worship services," Smith says. "I think it is an incredibly creative idea to provide an opportunity for an entire demographic to attend church services.
"In the age of 24-hour convenience stores and all-night McDonald's, I think it is a great idea to have a midnight service at church. Not only is God not dead, he is not asleep, either. I expect that 'his' presence will be there at midnight."
The Rev. Michael Baker, administrative bishop with the Church of God North Georgia Executive Offices, applauds Allen for late-night church services.
"A major purpose of the church is to touch people where they live by sharing faith and hope through the gospel of Jesus Christ," Baker says. "Let me affirm Pastor Carroll Allen and his congregation for their 'out of the box' sensitivity to the spiritual needs of those in their area who must work either late or overnight by providing a midnight Friday worship opportunity."
Allen says he's had little feedback about the midnight service, so he has no way of knowing if anyone, besides himself and his wife, Donna, 55, will show up.
"My wife is the piano player and singer, so she'll be right there with me," he says.
Mrs. Allen, 55, says she supports her husband's decision to hold the service.
"This particular service (Friday at midnight) occurs at the beginning of spring break (for Catoosa County Schools)," she says. "Participants can rest a little while on Saturday immediately following the meeting (and) weekends are easier to readjust one's schedule than weekdays."
The service will be like every other service, Allen says. "There will be singing, worship and a message."
"I just hope people hear about it and because it will be a time convenient to them, they will come," Allen says. "They don't have to be Church of God, they can be any denomination. If they can adapt to our worship and they want to come back, we will welcome them."
Whether or not the weekly midnight service will be an ongoing event depends on the interest, he says.
"It just depends on what happens. If just a few show up, I will consider doing it a couple times a month."
Contact Karen Nazor Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6396.
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...