Churches adjust Christmas Eve services amidst pandemic

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Thursday is Christmas Eve, and for many area churches it will be a night and Christmas Eve service like no other… thanks to the pandemic.

Churches often see their biggest crowds Christmas Eve, but local pastors say they’ve worked for months to find safe ways to worship this holiday season.

This time of year, First Baptist Wilmington’s sanctuary is normally decorated with candles, wreaths, and a giant Christmas tree. This year, they’ve had to scale back.

Associate Pastor Jim Everette says they’ve held pre-taped virtual services since March, and tomorrow night, they’ll do the same. Thursday will be a pre-taped Christmas Eve service, complete with communion.

“The service itself, while the sanctuary will be empty, the service will be filled with the presence of Christ and the spirit of Christmas,” said Everette. “And we hope that all of our worshippers, whether they’re members of our church, or members of our community, will find it to be a meaningful experience.”

Their neighbors, First Presbyterian of Wilmington will also have a pre-taped Christmas Eve service, plus an outdoor caroling even that’s already at capacity. Pastor Dan Lewis says they’re walking the line between tradition and safety this year.

“We think its important to protect our community,” Lewis explained. “It’s been a hard thing to make that decision, but, we’re really trying to make sure we’re not part of the problem here.”

Some have even pivoted from the traditional Christmas Eve service, like St. Luke AME Zion. They’ve spent this month donating food, toys, and clothes to those in need.

“For us, we have decided that service has become our new worship,” said Reverend Jermaine Armour. “So for us right now, the outreach is just as important as the in reach.”

Others like St. Paul’s Lutheran Church are getting even more creative, hosting a drive through communion, a pre-taped service, a live streamed evening service, and two outdoor services (weather permitting).

“I think the biggest thing we did is when we added the outdoor services, people could see one another again. And that kind of, I think it strengthened the people’s resolve to kind of get through this together.”

In spite of the changes caused by the pandemic, worship leaders say they hope to provide their community with some form of stability, and light in dark times.

“A light to the darkness of the world,” Everette mused. “And we hope that in the way that we live everyday, we share the good news of Jesus Christ.”

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