This Christmas, what’s the ‘new normal’ for churches?

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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - As Christmas approaches, north country churches are again adjusting to the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At St. Patrick’s Catholic church in Watertown, every other pew is roped off and tape marks safe ‘social distancing.’

Maximum COVID capacity? 150 people. So to make sure everyone has a chance to worship, the church is adding a service.

“We believe we can have everybody safe and people will have a joyous environment to celebrate their faith,” said Pastor John Demo.

First Presbyterian Church in Watertown reached a different conclusion, after having in-person services every Sunday with limited capacity.

Pastor Leonard Sponaugle says the church wanted to have an in-person service this Christmas Eve, but didn’t see how it would be feasible.

“So on Christmas Eve, as people were coming in once we reached that number if we did, how would it feel to say to people, at the door, you can’t come in?” he said Tuesday.

So, the church decided to stream the service instead, something they started when the pandemic began.

In that time, they’ve gotten better at the production, changing camera angles and adding hymns so people can sing along at home.

But Pastor Sponaugle acknowledges it just doesn’t feel the same.

“If there is a benefit from any of this, maybe we will be more appreciative of just being together,” once the pandemic is over, he said.

Finally, in Ogdensburg the First Presbyterian Church has scrapped its traditional service for a 7 PM outdoor group sing of “Silent Night.”

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