TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — While Omicron cases continue to rise, churches across Southern Arizona are prepared to welcome parishioners to Christmas services. Throughout the pandemic, places of worship pivoted by making livestreaming widespread, drive up Communion and other virtual events.
At Grace St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Reverend Steve Keplinger said they will livestream all of their services from now on. This Christmas, he said people must be fully vaccinated and mask wearing is required at all times.
"We expect people to be honest," he said. "We are in the truth business, so we are expecting people to honor that."
In addition to social distancing, Grace St. Paul's is opening all the doors and windows during the services.
"We're capping the services at 200 people, and that is slightly less than half of our capacity," he said. "There's an overflow area that is socially distanced so that they can watch the livestream."
Grace St. Paul's will have services on Christmas Eve at 5p.m. and 9p.m., with carols beginning at 8:30p.m. On Christmas Day, there will be a service at 10a.m. Keplinger said despite the pandemic's impact on the church, the congregation continues to come together for fellowship.
"This community, while they were forced to be separate, has readlly come together in ways that we haven’t been before," he said. "We often refer to ourselves as a beloved community – that has become so true during this time."
Over at St. Pius X Catholic Church, the parish is ready to celebrate the Mass with the community as they offer several Mass times as well as livestreaming options. On Christmas Eve, masks are required at the 3 p.m. Mass while they are encouraged at the 5p.m. and 7p.m. Masses. They offer a midnight Mass and a 10a.m. Mass on Christmas Day.
From 11:00a.m. to 11:30a.m. on Christmas Day, there will be drive-up Communion for people who celebrated Mass via livestream. Father Dennis Bosse said it's important to come together this Christmas and they are ready for the influx of visitors.
"My hope is that we can move away from drive through communion and that’s why I pray that the pandemic and the variants that take place will disappear as soon as possible," he said "The mass in the catholic church is the highest form of prayer."
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