Churches keep Christmas traditions while adapting to pandemic protocols

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The coronavirus is changing the way people celebrate the holidays this year and that includes how they worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Many houses of worship in the Mid-South will host some sort of in-person services for Christmas despite concerns about spreading the virus but those services may be different than what families are used to.

FOX13 spoke with two local pastors about why they say in-person services are so important.

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“I just want to encourage people to keep hope alive,” Senior Pastor Bishop Brandon Porter said as he was preparing for a Christmas tradition at Greater Community Temple.

“Christmas is always a big thing for us,” he said. “Of course with the pandemic, we’ve had to make some adjustments because of safety so we could look out for our people.”

Porter says the pandemic won’t stop them from holding their usual Christmas Day service but it is forcing them to change the way they worship.

“We couldn’t have all of the large crowds gathering that we would normally have, but we are still going to do some nice and wonderful things for people who do attend the service,” he said.

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Porter says the service will only last an hour. Attendees will be spaced out and are required to wear masks and get their temperatures checked.

Sunday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee issued an order limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer people but there was a specific exemption for houses of worship.

“I think it is essential for us to be able to operate and to give that spiritual guidance that is necessary for people to see themselves through something as traumatic as this pandemic,” Porter said.

At St. Louis Catholic Church Father James Keith Stewart says they’re holding an increased number of both outdoor and indoor masses over Christmas Eve and Christmas.

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“It is an important time to be able to receive the Eucharist at this time, so it’s important we do that in person for those who would like to do it,” Stewart said.

As the new year approaches, both pastors say they’re hopeful for new beginnings.

“We’ve had some devastation this year but 2021 is coming, and I believe it is going to be a time of change,” said Stewart.

Both churches will also stream their services for anyone who can’t attend, or would just rather stay home and still be able to worship.

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