As pandemic persists, churches adapt for safe Christmas services – WRAL News

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On WRAL-TV at 11: As omicron spreads in North Carolina, Chris Lovingood shares how one local church is adapting to protect its congregation. On Friday, churches opened their doors to worshippers for Christmas Eve services, but many church leaders have made changes to protect their congregations. On WRAL-TV at 11, Chris Lovingood shares the changes one Cary church has made.
Published: 2021-12-24 22:15:00
Updated: 2021-12-24 23:05:00
Posted December 24, 2021 10:15 p.m. EST
Updated December 24, 2021 11:05 p.m. EST
By Chris Lovingood, WRAL anchor/reporter
— As the world nears two years of the coronavirus pandemic and with variants contributing to rising cases, the focus turns to celebrating the holidays safely.
On Friday, churches opened their doors to worshippers for Christmas Eve services, but many church leaders have made changes to protect their congregations.
The Christ the King Lutheran Church in Cary said they’re doing what’s necessary to keep people safe.

“I’ve been one of the only ones to come a few times in person,” said congregant Catharine Staley.
Staley said online church service has been her go-to during the pandemic, but she still loves the in person connections.
“They gave communion for Easter in the parking lot. I teared up. It was just lovely to be with people,” said Staley.
For Christmas, and other services, the Christ the King Lutheran Church has a mask mandate in place for people in the pews and for singers.
Christ the King Lutheran Church Pastor Wolfgang Herz-Lane said because North Carolina’s first COVID-19 patient was a member of the church, they’ve kept U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidance at the top of mind for the most part.
“Even when the courts decided the guidelines from the state did not apply to the communities of faith, we still followed those guidelines because we wanted people to stay safe,” said Herz-Lanes. “As a result of that, we are not aware of any infections that originated here. We certainly haven’t had an outbreak or anything.”

Herz-Lane said he and other church leaders have leaned on hybrid services, especially during the holiday season.
“I think the most important learning that we had is, it’s super important to follow the CDC guidelines and that’s what we’ve done from day one,” said Herz-Lane.
Bill Rose, a church leader at Oasis Church, praised his staff for making online services possible.
“One of the things we’ve always celebrated [is] we are blessed with people who know how to work the technology, and for those who don’t — they are capable and able to learn,” said Rose.
Rose said while Oasis Church is planning on having in-person services for the holidays, there will be protocols in place to keep people safe.
“We have this huge auditorium and so, we’re going to be doing two services just to make sure there’s lots of space for people to breathe,” he said.
Church leaders said online technology and encouraging masks and vaccines is because “love thy neighbor” especially matters in a pandemic.
“If somebody tells me, ‘Well, I’m strong and I’m healthy. I’m not afraid of the virus’ … it’s not about you. It’s about helping to protect others around you,” said Herz-Lane.
Other churches in the area, like St. Ann Catholic Church, in Clayton, said there are separate sections for churchgoers who do want to follow COVID-19 guidelines and for people who don’t want to follow COVID-19 guidelines. St. Ann Catholic Church leaders added they’re taking a “choose your comfort” approach.
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