Parishioners attending Christmas Eve services, others watch online

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Churches are making adjustments this holiday season with some in-person services while providing options to watch online.

It will not be packed shoulder to shoulder this year at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, but you will be able to attend in person if you want to.

"All of our churches are open for in-person Celebrations of Mass for the Holy Day of Christmas," said Father Dennis Gill, director of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. "As you may be aware in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, houses of worship are not bound to capacity limitations."

But with that said, they're roping off every other pew to help limit capacity. Parishioners are encouraged to wear a mask.

Some churches are choosing to only do online services.

"So, it is very hard not to have the church brimming, which it usually is," said Rev. Susan Richardson of Christ Church in Old City. "It's part of the way we humans know and celebrate something special."

Richardson said they'll make the best of it.

Everyone's making adjustments, but the sense of togetherness is what others will be missing.

"Just the shaking of hands and looking someone in the eye, wishing them a 'Merry Christmas,' is something that I'm going to miss out on this year," said Old City resident Garry Cole.

"I come to the church definitely at Christmastime. I won't be coming this year because of COVID," said Donna Searer of Old City.

Others will attend a service somewhere else.

"I feel safe going into the church. You're not going to stay very long. Just keep it moving," said Old City resident Terry Lee Barrett.

Right now many are leaning on the Christmas spirit while looking ahead.

"We're almost out of it this. It's like we're running a marathon and we're at mile 20. The vaccine is on the horizon," said Searer.

State leaders are continuing to encourage all religious institutions to take every precaution to create a safe environment.
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