Churches planning ahead for Christmas season amid pandemic

Local News

PEORIA COUNTY, Ill. (WMBD) — Despite rising COVID-19 cases in the state, churches have the option of allowing its parishioners to attend Sunday mass.

Governor J.B. Pritzker on Friday, relegated the state to phase three of the Restore Illinois plan; placing a cap on the amount of people allowed to gather in an indoor setting, however places of worship are exempt because of the first amendment.

Churches in the area and across the state are taking pre-cautions on their own and following recommendations of local health departments.

Despite churches being given the okay to meet in person, leaders for the Methodist denomination have prohibited parishioners from coming inside the doors. Dr. Rev. Greg Coates lead pastor at Glasford United Methodist Church said their bishop told them to go back to online.

“Two weeks ago met as a church council and looking at statistics in the area and recommendations of public health officials,” Coates said. “All of them were considering us going online.”

For the past two Sundays, Glasford United Methodist Church has only been gathering together virtually. Coates said the decision isn’t easy, but they thought it was best to prioritize churchgoers’ safety.

“It’s not everybody’s favorite situation of course, we’d much rather be in-person with one another. but we felt this was the most prudent thing to do,” Coates said.

In downtown Peoria, leaders at Riverside Community Church are letting their parishioners make the decision themselves. Those who want to attend services on Sunday in-person can, with several pre-cautions in place.

However, if Riverside members are feeling sick, are worried about catching the virus, or are at-risk the church still offers live-streaming of their Sunday services. Lead pastor Michael Ritchason said his team has been working double to plan.

“We have a plan A and a plan B for basically anything that comes our way,” Ritchason said.

With Christmas Eve and Christmas Day right around the corner; days where churches see an unprecedented numbers in attendance; both said they have a plan.

“We really anticipate more people watching online through even the Christmas holidays than what we would normally have in-person right now,” Ritchason said.

Coates said he hopes the church can gather in some form physically. He’s hoping for a drive-in Christmas Eve service.

“I’m looking into getting an FM transmitter; other churches have done this, so we can be somewhat physically present with one another and be able to hear through our cars,” Coates said.

Both leaders encourage their members to wear masks and wash hands and cant wait for a return to normal Sundays.

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