Area churches are preparing for one of the most anticipated spiritual days of the year – Christmas Eve. The difference is the COVID-19 pandemic has made in-person worship a challenge in 2020, but many houses of worship are offering a variety of choices to observe the special tradition: multiple services for some, in-person, online livestreaming and a combination of the two on Thursday, Dec. 24.
First Christian Church and High Street Church of the Nazarene have been among the churches to offer both in-person and online services since June. Having both options is a convenience for the needs of the congregation.
The emphasis for those attending is safety protocols including social distancing, masks and sanitizing stations.
Pastor Marty Dennis of High Street said a majority of his congregation does online services, and maybe a third of the building’s 500 seats are filled on Sundays. Considering the challenges of 2020, this Christmas season is especially important, so he introduced a series called “Rediscover Christmas.”
“This is a critical time in our history and Christmas is a very special time to worship. Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas and we’re blessed we’ll be able to meet on Thursday,” said Dennis.
First Christian has used an RSVP system for its multiple Sunday in-person services in addition to the safety protocols, which included upgrading its air filters and emptying the building of people quickly after services.
The RSVP service is proving helpful in accommodating the extra number of people who may want to attend one of three afternoon Christmas Eve services.
“We’re as confident as we can be and hopeful we’ve taken every precaution,” said Jennifer Snyder, executive assistant at First Christian.
Rev. John MacQuarrie, pastor at St. Bernard Roman Catholic Church and St. Teresa Catholic Church, has attended funerals and seen suffering caused by COVID-19. This has reinforced his commitment to making Christmas Eve services safe for parishioners as well as preaching hope.
“We need peace in our hearts. Christmas reclaims the Good News,” he said. “We’ve done our very best with our masses to keep things going and staying safe for our people.”
Christmas Eve will feature six services, and there will be overflow areas to watch a livestream on the premises while social distancing should the main auditorium reach capacity.
Since the pandemic hit, Greater Grace Temple has done its services exclusively online. Leadership considered doing its Christmas Eve service in person, but opted to continue what’s worked.
“They want to come back, but understand why it’s not happening,” said Pastor Monica Logan. “We’ve had people in our congregation that have had COVID-19. We will remain closed until early in the year.”
Greater Grace Bishop Ronald Logan began online services early in the pandemic and wound up doing a daily prayer for the city, those with COVID and many other issues.
With its elderly members not computer savvy, several Greater Grace members voluntarily call to walk them through getting the online services.
Fellowship Church of Springfield also offers live and online options, and requests reservations for its candlelight Christmas Eve. Leadership took an extra step to make those livestreaming able to interact with what in-person attendees will experience, offering boxes with a variety of items including the Christmas story, candles, communion items, glowsticks and other items for the kids.
For information on various churches’ Christmas Eve services, check their websites or social media sites for times and requirements.
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