Despite the continuing area gasoline shortage or perhaps because of it - attendance at weekly worship services here has increased, according to various clergymen who were polled.
"People can't get gas, so they're going to church instead," said the Rev. E. Carl Lyons, pastor of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Silver Spring.
At Capitol Hill Metropolitan Baptist Church, attendance at Sunday morning and evening services has been greater than usual lately, although more than half the congregation commutes from Maryland and Virginia, according to the Rev. C. Wade Freeman, pastor at the church.
On 25 countries and synagogues and one mosque surveyed, none has experienced decreased attendance at weekly worship services because of the gas shortage. Spiritual leaders at 10 institutions surveyed said recent attendance was higher than usual. Some said the curtailment of weekend outings accounted for much of the increase.
But despite the present encouraging attendance figures, some churches and synagogues are not certain how they will fare in the face of a continuing shortage. Already worried over dropping attendance at week-night activities, some institutions are looking for ways to conserve their congregations' gas - just in case.
The Rev. Dr. M. Vernon Davis, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Alexandria, said his church has had better attendance lately. "But we had to cancel our annual vacation Bible school this summer," he said. "We couldn't get people to teach because of the unknown factors on the gas situation."
Davis istrying to ensure continued attendance at his service and church functions by organizing car pools and by using a church bus to transport children to a forthcoming summer camp at the church.
Although Sunday service attendance has remained constant at Congregation Olam Tikvah in Fairfax, parents have begun complaining about transporting their children more than 20 miles in some cases to attend Hebrew School three times weekly.
Rabbi Itzhak Klirs, spiritual leader of the synagogue, is concerned about this threat to school attendance and said he feels compelled to find a solution before fall semester. "We will make a study and may invest in a bus or maybe begin a satellite school" in another location, he said.
The Rev. John Corgan of Grace Lutheran Church on 16th Street NW will schedule all committee meetings at his church on a single night, beginning this fall.
Also this fall youth at Calvary Baptist Church on 8th Street NW may ride the subway to their church school, since their pastor, the Rev. Leonard Wilmot, may adjust the school schedule to match the subway schedule.
The Rev. Richard C. Halverson of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda has devised a gas-saving plan for his congregation to use should the situation worsen. Every fourth Sunday some members will meet at a neighborhood home for a service and then carpool the other three Sundays.
No matter what happens at the gas pumps, the Rev. Thomas Kelly said he knows he can count on his congregation at Assumption Roman Catholic Church in Anacostia.
"Like most Catholic parishes, our members are from the neighborhood and most walk to church," he said.
"What it all boils down to," said the Rev. Charles Kirkley of Saint Paul's United Methodist Church in Kensington, "is (if the situation does not ease) will they continue to give church a high priority or a low priority and stop coming?" CAPTION: Picture, Despite what some members of this Arlington church might wish, all they receive is a reminder when they gather. The Exon gasoline station is indeed behind the two signs, but the church's quarters are on the second floor. By Lucian Perkins - The Washington Post