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Churches adapt Christmas celebrations amid COVID concerns

Posted at 6:30 PM, Dec 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-24 20:30:58-05

DENVER — Christmas looks different this year. Many churches across Denver, though they will be celebrating the holiday, will have smaller, more refined celebrations instead of the large gatherings of tradition.

"We are not going to bring people together and risk sharing the virus with others, especially when we can connect and share virtually," said Rev. Bradley Laurvick of the Highlands United Methodist Church. "Our traditional service couldn't be in the building, so we got out of the building."

Laurvick's services will be completely online this holiday weekend. He spent the last two months preparing for the online event.

"We wanted to put in as much effort as we could into sharing those experiences and feelings and moments because we come to this time of year with need anyway," Laurvick said.

Churches in Colorado are allowed to hold in-person ceremonies. Earlier in December, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Weld County church that defied state mandates on social distancing saying onerous restrictions barring in-person worship is a violation of the First Amendment.

However, Fr. Ron Cattany, the pastor of the Catholic Basilica Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, said the state of Colorado has struck a balance when it comes to regulations.

"The state and local government guidelines here have been more generous," Cattany said. "So when the Supreme Court case came out, we were able to go from 50 people to 89."

The cathedral is holding in-person services for Christmas worshipers, but they will be heavily restricted. Normally, more than 700 people attend each mass in the church on Christmas. This year the number is capped at 89.

"The logistical side has been difficult because it's limited," Cattany said.

However, technology has allowed more people to attend the masses online.

"With the live streaming of the masses, we're actually reaching more people around the world from here," Cattany said.

Regardless of tradition, changes are noticeable this year. The pastors of two major parishes in the city of Denver said the message is clear as ever.

"Jesus was born in a stable," Laurvick said. "We can worship from home online this year and recognize that God still shows up."