Christmas in pandemic times

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: In my State, we are likely facing many more likely months of very strict governmental restrictions on the number of people who can be present for “public gatherings,” including church services (no more than 50 people, no matter how large the church building is). This leaves a real puzzle: how do we handle the liturgy schedule on Christmas Eve? 

I am wondering whether it would be liturgically and pastorally appropriate in our very unfortunate circumstances to include a couple shorter services in the Christmas Eve schedule of our multiple-church parish:

  1. Sung Evening Prayer with some carols? 
  2. Some sort of short Communion service? 
  3. Is there some brief liturgy we could do outside? 

I’m thinking offering a few shorter services around the 4:00 hour on Christmas Eve would:

  • Meet infrequent churchgoers where they are, and (in case of a non-Eucharistic liturgy) not also force them to receive a Eucharist many of them may not be prepared to fruitfully receive;
  • Help us not have to turn away those who didn’t register ahead of time (which we’ve been requiring for Sunday Masses); 
  • Not overburden our liturgical volunteers and musicians by multiplying Masses, were this possible; 
  • And also help us clear out and sanitize the church buildings more quickly. 

Any thoughts? Many thanks!


A: All your ideas look good to me. The only one that could raise a question is the communion service. We’re not supposed to have a communion service in the same church when Mass is celebrated there the same day. Here’s a related recent blog post:

But, of course, we have a pandemic going on, and we’re bending all kinds of rules. Maybe the Vatican would budge on this.

The USCCB has published a service of Lessons and Carols that may be another good solution:

Many people want to hear the Word of God and the beautiful music of Christmas. Some form of non-eucharistic prayer could carry the hopeful message of Christmas in this most difficult year.