’Christmas Eve is like Super Bowl Sunday’ - Baton Rouge area pastors expect less crowds this Christmas season, providing online options

Baton Rouge churches are staying safe but aren't letting COVID-19 ruin the Christmas spirit

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - For many people, church services on Christmas Eve are among the most important of the year.

This year you probably won’t be seeing large gatherings. Churches can only have 75% capacity in their doors, per Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Phase Two order.

But pastors are getting creative and preparing for a lot of members in their congregations, to possibly watch services online this year.

There was a special children’s Christmas service at First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge on December 23. It showed how worshiping has adapted during the pandemic, with even the Christmas puppets using Zoom.

Churches in Baton Rouge are finding creative ways to safely offer Christmas Eve services.
Churches in Baton Rouge are finding creative ways to safely offer Christmas Eve services. (Source: WAFB)

However, the desire for many to draw close in worship during Christmas hasn’t changed.

“Christmas Eve is like Super Bowl Sunday. You know Easter and Christmas Eve are our biggest days of the year,” said Rev. Brady Whitton, at First United Methodist Church.

Rev. Whitton says with COVID restrictions, his services won’t look the same come December 24.

“Sometimes on Christmas Eve, Easter, and other special occasions, we’ll get 1000 people in here. People will stand and people will bring in extra chairs. We’re limiting our Christmas Eve services to 150 people and we have asked people to make reservations,” said Whitton.

The church has worked hard to connect to followers by streaming their services online during COVID.

For Christmas even, they passed out the blessed communion in this clever way, so members watching at home can still share in the sacrament.

“The host in the lid, so you peel back and the host is here. And it’s grape juice, it’s not wine, but the wine is underneath. But we pre-bless these at the church,” said Rev. Whitton.

Churches in Baton Rouge are finding creative ways to safely offer Christmas Eve services.
Churches in Baton Rouge are finding creative ways to safely offer Christmas Eve services. (Source: WAFB)
Churches in Baton Rouge are finding creative ways to safely offer Christmas Eve services.
Churches in Baton Rouge are finding creative ways to safely offer Christmas Eve services. (Source: WAFB)

Pews at pretty much every church you go to, will be marked off to make sure people are social distancing. The same can be seen at St. Thomas More Catholic Church.

“It’s going to be first come, first serve for masses. Before each mass the church will open about 30 minutes before the mass begins, we will seat you upon your arrival, so that we will space you out and keep you safe,” said Fr. Michael Alello, Pastor at St. Thomas More.

Alello says typically on Christmas Eve they’d pack about 850 people in the church. This year it may be just a few hundred seated inside, and they will have the gym ready on standby.

No pastor does not want their church filled at Christmas. So, it’s been a lot of challenges, but also trying to help our people understand that this might be the year, that you prayerfully consider staying home and joining us on our livestream and praying with your family at home,” said Alello.

Both Fr. Alello and Rev. Whitton are just hopeful for packed Christmas church services next year.

“I can’t wait for the time where we can have everybody here singing and worshipping again. It’s going to be a lot of fun for me and I hope a lot of people too,” said Whitton.

“And I don’t know what that day is going to look like, but I can tell you it’s going to be quite the celebration,” said Alello.

For Catholics, since the quarantine began, Bishop Michael Duca with the Diocese of Baton Rouge has lifted the obligation to attend mass every week.

So no pressure to be at mass during a pandemic, but to consider what’s best for you and your family.  And that may just be the virtual route.

To watch the livestream at St. Thomas More, more info can be found here: https://www.stmbr.org/church

For more info on how to watch services at First United Methodist, click here: https://firstmethodist.online.church/

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