SIOUX CITY -- For the first time in a decade, Sunnybrook Community Church's annual Christmas Eve at the Orpheum Theatre will be getting a brand-new name.
"This year, since we have two services on Sunday (the day before Christmas Eve), we're no longer technically a Christmas Eve service," Laurie Van Cura, the church's executive pastor of ministries, explained. "Guess our services will simply be known as Christmas at the Orpheum from now on."
However, if you're in the vicinity of the Orpheum at 528 Pierce St, Sunnybrook will be hosting Christmas Eve services at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Monday.
Indeed, the 5601 Sunnybrook Drive church's open-to-the-community services have become a yearly tradition for many families.
"A Christmas service may be the only service a person attends over the course of a year," Van Cura said. "We want to make sure that ours is as meaningful and fulfilling as possible."
This is why Sunnybrook holds its service at the Orpheum instead of its own spacious auditorium.
"For many people, traditional churches -- and church services -- are too stuffy or too formal or too intimidating," Van Cura said. "Religion shouldn't be any of those things."
The historic and ornate Orpheum serves as a beautiful backdrop for Sunnybrook's one-hour service, which emphasizes storytelling over sermonizing and contemporary music played on guitars as opposed to hymns played on the organ.
"Don't worry, we'll still be playing 'Silent Night' and 'Joy to the World,'" Van Cura said. "Those songs will just feel less church-like when we perform them."
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Other innovations include comedy sketches, video productions and a service that is streamed, online, via Facebook.
"Too many churches turn inward when they should be looking out," Van Cura said. "They rely on outdated concepts when they should be looking for ways of attracting the next generation to the word of God."
Van Cura points to Sunnybrook's outreach programs to women's shelters, homeless facilities and even jails as ways of making religion accessible for all.
Still, she maintained there are people who may have had bad experiences with churches in the past.
"We encourage people to wear comfortable clothing to our services because we often mask ourselves in the clothing that we wear," Van Cura explained. "At Sunnybrook, we're about transparency and honesty."
"Everybody makes mistakes and we're OK with that," she continued. "If you want perfect people, you'll probably not like it at Sunnybrook."
A few days before Christmas Eve, Van Cura watches as a group of volunteers unload equipment in the back of the Orpheum. At the same time, congregation members assemble on stage for some last-minute rehearsing.
"We've been getting ready for our Christmas services since the middle of summer," she said. "It's a big undertaking and we don't mind it one bit."
As the lights shine brightly, Van Cura can't help but smile.
"This is our gift to the community," she explained. "We want everyone to know Jesus, so they can experience his life and healing."
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