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Churches to celebrate holidays in-person, outdoors and online to meet needs of congregations
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Churches to celebrate holidays in-person, outdoors and online to meet needs of congregations

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It’s clear the pandemic has changed the way we live, and that includes how we celebrate church services.

But area parishes have made a variety of changes to ensure congregants can participate in the joys of Christmas.

Many churches didn’t meet in person last holiday seasons because of COVID-19. Parishes have since opened their doors. While some people are ready to attend services in-person, many still prefer to worship from home.

“We’re trying to accommodate both sides of the coin,” said Rev. Mark Wilkins, pastor at the First United Methodist Church of Crown Point.

Wilkins said the church has in-person services, “but our live-stream, we’re really doubling down on that.”

That will continue for Christmas, and parishioners can visit fumccp.org for information about the live-streaming.

First United Methodist Church also is offering another option for the holiday.

The parish has multiple Christmas Eve services, the first of which starts at 5 p.m. on the steps of the Historic Crown Point Courthouse.

That service will provide community while easing the discomfort of an indoor session. Wilkins said being able to gather with other parishioners is significant and adds fullness to a service.

“Let me ask you this, how important is it that you be with your family at Christmas?” Wilkins said. “And that’s exactly what this is, this is getting together. We are a family here.”

He said the church “stumbled on” to the idea for the outdoor Christmas Eve service when it canceled in-person holiday worship last year.

“But man what a great thing to stumble into,” Wilkins said.

Last year’s session was well attended and well received by those at the ceremony.

“It was so incredibly neat to be able to do that, that when we were done with that, that we said, ‘We don’t care where we are with COVID next year, we’re going to be continuing with that tradition,’ ” Wilkins said.

Besides the outdoor Christmas Eve ceremony, the church is hosting another socially distant holiday program.

It will have a drive-through breakfast with Santa from 9 to 11 a.m. Dec. 11 at the church, 352 S. Main St. in Crown Point. The cost is $5 per meal, and participants will be greeted by Santa and his elves as they drive up to the fellowship hall doors to pick up meals.

The Griffith First Christian Church also has seen attendance at its services increase, a trend that is expected to continue.

“We are expecting more congregants at our Christmas services than last year,” said Mindy Sarlea, of the Griffith First Christian Church. “Many of our regular families have been starting to return.”

Sarlea said it’s up to parishioners to decide if they want to wear face coverings while at church, and most people practice social-distancing.

The church also provides options for those who can’t or don't feel comfortable attending in-person. 

“We have had a live online service since we shut down in March of 2020, and that service remains on our website, so people can watch it at any time,” Sarlea said.

Services can be live-streamed at vimeo.com, and past services are available at gfcc.net.

“We do believe it is important for people to return to in-person worship, but we also acknowledge the fact that people with underlying conditions or other health issues should continue to worship at home,” Sarlea said.

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