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Local churches prepare for Christmas services amid pandemic

Masks, social distancing, sign-in sheets -- even different service schedules

Local churches are changing the way they do Christmas during the pandemic.
Local churches are changing the way they do Christmas during the pandemic.

LYNCHBURG, Va. – It will mainly be a silent night this Christmas Eve, as local churches of different denominations put similar COVID-19 guidelines into place.

Many pews will be taped off and empty to maintain social distancing. Churches are relying on live streaming services for this year’s celebrations.

Monsignor Kenneth Rush, pastor of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Lynchburg, says some worshippers will be allowed in, masks are required, and so is filling out a sign-in sheet.

While they’re adjusting to COVID guidelines, the church is also adjusting its schedule.

“We couldn’t do a midnight mass this year because the governor has said that you couldn’t be out after midnight,” said Rush.

Governor Ralph Northam’s curfew is also cutting services at Main Street United Methodist Church in Bedford.

Reverend Doctor Dawn Compton says they had to cancel an 11 p.m. service while leaving enough time between other services to clean the church.

“We’ve asked people that are planning to come to our worship services to register on our website, so that we can know that they’re planning to come, make sure that we can accommodate the number that is planning to attend. It also allows us a place to start if we needed to do any contacting tracing,” said Compton.

While the Bedford church can hold 250 people, the capacity will be 60 on Christmas Eve.

But that’s more than will be in attendance at Lynchburg’s Peakland Baptist Church.

Reverend doctor Martha Kearse tells 10 News the doors will be locked because they’re prerecording services.

Outdoor gatherings have been canceled, too, including a Christmas Eve candlelight service.

“We’ve invited people to post a picture of their family lighting candles and to share that on our social media. So, we’ll kind of the candles around that way,” said Kearse.

Despite the pandemic, the pastors remain optimistic this Christmas.

“We’ve been experiencing quite a bit of darkness and loss and grief. The message is God is still light,” said Kearse.

About the Author:

Tim Harfmann joined the 10 News team in September 2020 and works at the station's Lynchburg bureau.