Churches Prepare for Christmas Eve Services with Rise in COVID Cases

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Local churches are bracing for one of the holiest days of the year with increasing COVID-19 cases in mind.

In downtown Norfolk, two historic churches say they are implementing health safety protocols despite the change in services from the same time last year.

“Last year we had a limit on how many people could be in space,” said Ashley Dixon, chair of the Church of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception worship committee. “We have lifted the limit and the restrictions. We are simply asking parishioners to take the necessary precautions and if they are sick join us via livestream. “

Dixon says there will be two services on Friday: one at 7 p.m. and one at midnight.

“Christmas Eve masses are usually very busy, as are Easter masses. Our seven does not have as much as the midnight mass. Midnight Mass has several other people in Midnight Mass. Families love to come. It is part of the Christmas tradition for many families, ”she said.

Dixon says the Diocese of Richmond, to which the church belongs, does not require masks, St. Mary’s recommends that parishioners wear masks.

“We have found that most parishioners are fairly compliant with the demand to wear masks. We encourage the wearing of masks, not only for safety, but an act of love for our neighbors and fellow parishioners. We want to protect each other and make sure we are comfortable coming together for worship, ”she said.

Choir members also wear masks designed for singing, and hand sanitizing stations are located in the church.

Down the street at Freemason Street Baptist Church, Pastor Bob Guffey says they too are encouraging worshipers to wear masks.

“We talked about the mask as a way to love your neighbor, not as much as I want, but what is good for the community. We will continue to observe these procedures tomorrow night as we expect a strong mix of those who will join us here and those who will join us online, ”he said.

Guffey says that last year only those who attended the service were at church while the congregation watched the live broadcast.

He says it has been a long year and a half for many churches to learn and understand how to bypass COVID-19.

Guffey believes that part of what they came up with, whether it was wearing a mask or using technology, will stick around to become a new normal.

“We realized that there might not be a post-COVID future for some time. So we are finding creative ways to maintain security and involve people in the ministry,” Guffey said. .

Vaccinated parishioners are allowed to enter the church without a mask, but Guffey says many have worn masks since the emergence of the delta variant.

When it comes to masking or getting the shot, Guffey remembers getting the polio shot as a kid and realizing how great it was to be able to help.

He hopes others will see it as a way to help keep others safe as well.

“I see it as the use of the gifts that God has given us and the respect, we could say, that God has for people to say, ‘I gave you the tools, now let’s find out,’ Guffey said.

Freemason Street also hosts a Christmas dinner for those in need on Christmas Day at noon.

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