There will be empty pews at churches across the province this Christmas.
For a segment of the population, Christmas Eve is the only night of the year they step inside a church and most houses of worship are happy for it.
“We normally do a big church Christmas party which we were not able to do this year,” said Wes Morrison, worship pastor at the Gateway Baptist Church in Royal Oak. “Christmas Eve service is usually a big night, we encourage people to bring family and friends, including non-Christians, to sing and partake and hear the Christmas story.”
Churches could hold small, socially distanced services under 50 people until the province imposed the most recent restrictions on Nov. 19. But even before then, Gateway anticipated how it would manage the Christmas Eve service, knowing hundreds make their annual visit.
“We realized we wouldn’t be able to fit everyone so we filmed it ahead of time, starting way back in September,” Morrison said. “We pre-filmed it with a lot of production, with things like our pastor sitting in front of a fireplace for a cozy feeling, instead of standing in an empty church.”
Many south Island churches have live-streamed their services since even before the Nov. 19 restrictions, such as the catholic trio of St. Patrick’s Parish, Holy Cross and St. Andrew’s Cathedral.
For those Oak Bay Catholics who haven’t booked their year-end confession, at least at St. Patrick’s Parish, they’ll have to wait until the new year, said administration assistant Deborah MacKay.
“We have everything online this year, except for the confessions, but all spots for that are booked for 2020,” MacKay said. “Everyone is masked and the area is cleaned after each visit.”
The St. Patrick’s Parish on Haultain Street will live stream its nativity sermon at 4 p.m. on Dec. 24.
Saturday, Dec. 26, the church is open for prayer and visitation between noon and 3 p.m., to see the nativity scene.
Oak Bay United is also going live from its Facebook page, Facebook.com/OakBayUnitedChurch/live, starting at 4 p.m. on Dec. 24 with its Virtual Christmas Pageant, 7 p.m. for its Carols and Christmas Reflections, and on Dec. 27 with its 10 a.m. Sunday worship, Hopes for the New Year.