Churches find ways to celebrate Christmas amid health protocols

·2 min read

As the Christmas season approaches churches Island-wide are organizing to celebrate and welcome as many as safely possible to communal worship.

Reverend Bonnie Fraser, with Hillcrest United Church in Montague, said her church currently has a 50-person capacity. She hopes plans to allow a second cohort of 50 might be approved by the Chief Public Health Office.

“Whatever happens we will just roll with it,” Rev Fraser said.

She is considering offering two services on Christmas Eve if needed to accommodate more people.

The service, or services, will be live-streamed as they have been since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Some plan to gather with family members to watch the service from home. This is a good option for people who are still hesitant to come out with the pandemic.”

Rev Fraser said there is a bit of uncertainty about what could happen between now and Christmas.

“We don’t know if it will all get shut down but we have been blessed on PEI so far.”

No matter what unfolds, whether it involves a full church or not, “one thing we do know is there will be Christmas.”

Norma Dingwell is an active member of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Montague. They plan to hold a church service and welcome 50 people. They will also offer their fourth annual Christmas dinner, take-out style.

Ms Dingwell said typically 70 to 80 people turn out for Christmas Eve service but that won’t happen this year. The service will also be live streamed.

At St Mary’s Catholic Church in Montague, Father Raju Chebattina is also looking to offer additional services. His church can seat 150 people, according to their operational plan, but other years on Christmas Eve 180 to 200 people attending wouldn’t be out of the ordinary.

Despite limitations all three leaders are pleased restrictions have eased since Easter, when gathering limits were more strict.

“We’re grateful things have improved since the lockdown when churches were closed,” Bishop Richard Grecco said.

He is especially thankful people can get to church here (on PEI) considering some provinces are locking down again and implementing small gathering limits.

While Bishop Grecco has seen improvement he recognizes that not everyone who wants to go to church has been able to.

Funding has also improved since March and April but hasn’t completely returned to normal with fewer people in the pews and limits on fundraisers.

“Funding is a concern but we’re getting by,” Bishop Grecco said. “We have to remember our people are up against it just like we are.”

To get through tough situations like this, he said, at least churches and parishioners have each other.

“Together, we’re going to get through this,” he said.

Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic