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Pastor cuts short liturgy to view kickoff

But all is not as it seems

Pastor Tim Christensen, Gold Hill Lutheran Church, Butte, Montana,  announces to congregation his intention to forgo the 11 a.m. worship service in order to view the 49ers-Panthers game. Screen shot of The Today Show broadcast

Pastor Tim Christensen, Gold Hill Lutheran Church, Butte, Montana, announces to congregation his intention to forgo the 11 a.m. worship service in order to view the 49ers-Panthers game. Screen shot of The Today Show broadcast

Heading into the NFL championship weekend, a possible controversy over the collision of two Sunday mainstays began to receive national attention. The Rev. Tim Christensen of Gold Hill Lutheran Church, Butte, Montana, presided over a short liturgy and announced that he was leaving the sanctuary in order to watch his favorite football team, the San Francisco 49ers, play in a divisional championship game against the Carolina Panthers. A video of the one-minute worship service uploaded to the congregation’s Facebook page immediately went viral.

At the 11 a.m. service, Christensen is seen walking from the sacristy, asking the congregation, “Would you like to be forgiven for your sins?” After voices are heard in affirmation, he continues, “Okay, great. You are.”

The pastor then says, “There’s some bread and some wine up here on the table. You feel free to help yourself.”

The kickoff of the football game was also scheduled for 11 a.m. in the Mountain time zones.

NBC’s The Today Show ran a clip on its January 14 show. Following the video and voiceover of the news story, co-host Savannah Guthrie opined, “So it’s like self-serve communion, really.”

As it turns out, the website Mashable, citing a source within the congregation, is reporting that the Facebook post was a prank, with “the entire congregation … in on it and [Christensen] held a full service right after that.”

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