Many US churches cancel their Christmas services in person

NEW YORK -- In the midst of a surge in coronavirus cases throughout the U.S. many churches have canceled their Christmas services in person, disappointing both pastors and those who enjoy them as an annual highlight.

Many US churches cancel their Christmas services in person

Others churches proposed outdoor services, or a combination of online and in person worship. They often had strict restrictions on who could attend. These restrictions included the requirement to wear masks and provide proof of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Washington National Cathedral, the nation's capital, St. John the Divine (the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of New York), and the Boston-based Old South Church were among the notable churches that cancelled some or all of their Christmas services.

The Rev. Nancy Taylor, Senior Minister of Old South, stated that the church, which is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, still hopes to hold in-person Christmas Day Services on Saturday but has decided to move its popular Christmas Eve service online-only.

She explained that the Christmas Eve congregation is larger and has more visitors. Some of these people have come from parties and some aren't familiar with Boston's mask mandate.

"While we love these guests in normal circumstances, they are not normal situations." She said that we are putting safety and health first for our staff and volunteers. "We are sorry for this."

Washington National Cathedral leaders announced that the services would be conducted remotely until January 9. The cathedral has a tradition of welcoming more than 15,000 people for Christmas services.

The Very Rev., the cathedral's dean, stated that "Unfortunately, as omicron variants take hold across the globe, our city seems to have been leading the nation in infectious diseases." Randolph Marshall Hollerith. "Given the recent spike in infections, it is simply not justified to gather large crowds as the health situation around us worsens."

Another Washington church, National City Christian Church, has also cancelled its Christmas Eve service. Instead of moving to online worship until Jan. 16, it will be exclusively available for worship.

Leaders of National City, the national church of Christ (Disciples of Christ), described their decision as one they "desperately did not want to make, but felt we had to." They also noted that Murial Bowser, Washington's mayor, had declared a State of Emergency in the District of Columbia.

New York City is seeing record numbers of positive COVID-19 tests. Leaders at St. John Divine announced that they are shifting all Christmas services online using their Facebook page and YouTube channel.

The cathedral stated on its website that "The time has come again to place the needs and concerns our wider community before our own,"

In December 2020, a fire destroyed another historic New York City church, Middle Collegiate. The Rev. Jacqui Lewis, the senior minister, was eagerly anticipating an in person Christmas Eve service. However, it has been cancelled.

Lewis said via email that the decision was "one of the most difficult decisions I've made as a pastor." "This was going be the spectacular Christmas worship we'd hoped for. I don't want to put my life at risk for my family.

She added, "My amazing team pivoted on the dime, so we'll be hosting an online celebration." "We'll have amazing music and fiery preaching. We'll be safe, but that's not the most important thing. We'll all be together."

Other churches that cancelled in-person Christmas services included the Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Springfield (Illinois) and the First Church of God Columbus (Ohio), which is home to a large, predominantly African American congregation.

Timothy Clarke, the senior pastor of First Church of God, made his announcement live on Thursday evening's church website.

He told those in the congregation who were disappointed, "Blame me." "I will be the one to stand before God and give an accounting."

North of New York City was the Bedford Presbyterian Church in Westchester County. It was one of many churches across the country that planned to continue with in-person Christmas services, despite the widespread spread of the micron variant.

The Rev. Carol Howard Merritt, the senior pastor, said that the decision was reached by a group consisting of parents and school administrators.

Merritt stated via email that "it became obvious that although the variant is extremely contagious", the infections seem to cause milder cases, particularly for those who have been vaccinated or boosted." "In response, it was decided to hold in person services, while making sure we required masks, stagger sitting, limit attendance, and reduce services."

The Rev. Steven Paulikas made the same decision, allowing for in-person services to continue while requiring all attendees to wear masks. The Christmas Eve service featured music from the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra led by Arturo O'Farrill, a member of the congregation.

Paulikas stated that Arturo and he decided to continue with the orchestra's vaccinations and testing. Arturo said, "We need to do the most for the congregation -- and right now we need some beauty and hope."

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