‘The safer thing to do': Local churches adjust Christmas services amid Omicron variant

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) — Many people spend Christmas Eve or Christmas morning at church. Because of the pandemic, in 2020 most services went virtual. 

As Christmas approaches and the Omicron variant continues to ramp up, many churches are faced with the same decision again this year. 

All Saints Cathedral in Milwaukee seats 140 people, but since the pandemic, only about 60 percent of church-goers have returned to in-person Mass. 

Father Kevin Carroll, the dean of the cathedral, said a whole year of virtual Mass taught him just how important in-person connection and relationships are within his congregation. While excited to return to in-person services, he understands many are still hesitant, and he wants church to be a safe place for everyone. 

“We're trying really hard to make it as safe as possible,” said Father Carroll. 

Christmas Day and Christmas Eve Masses will still take place in person, but to accommodate everyone, one service will require proof of vaccination. For the first Mass at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve, all in attendance will have to show a vaccination card. Another Mass at 8 p.m. will not require proof of vaccine. Both will require masks and distancing. 

“We have older people, and people with children who can't be vaccinated, and that probably still aren't comfortable coming out in big crowds. And so we hoped by doing this we would afford them the opportunity to worship in an environment that would feel safe,” said Father Carroll.

Other churches have made the hard decision to cancel in-person Christmas services. 

“We just, in the end, thought that it was going to be the safer thing to do it online as we did it last year,” said Father Geoffrey Ward with St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in River Hills. 

As the congregation monitors the spread of the Omicron variant, St. Christopher’s has decided to make all services virtual for the next five weeks. 

“It actually becomes a more inclusive thing, because people who may be concerned about exposure to the Omicron variant will be able to fully participate,” said Father Ward. 

All Saints Cathedral will still stream its Christmas Mass as it has all year. 

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