LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It's the most wonderful time of the year and also the busiest for churches. Large gatherings on Christmas Eve could be dangerous during a pandemic so faith leaders are finding creative ways to celebrate the holiday this year.
"We had no idea what 2020 had in store for us," Reverend Rachel Freeny of Middletown Christian Church said.
The church is used to seeing over 1,000 visitors on the Christmas Eve, but this year they're offering a virtual service and something new in their parking lot.
"We always have a candlelight service on Christmas Eve, but this year we're moving it outdoors," Freeny said.
It's called 'Cars, Carols and Candlelight.'
"We'll have some youth and a couple of congregation volunteers distanced out here in front of the sanctuary," Freeny said.
Drivers will pull into the parking lot, stay in their cars and turn on the radio.
"They'll be able to hear what's being said and sung up here," Freeny said. "They can sing along we'll have sheets with lyrics they can get as they drive in."
Father Bill Hammer of St. Margaret Mary said as long as people wear their masks they're welcome inside, but it'll be at 25% of its capacity. A gymnasium will be on standby.
"We've already got it marked off we have chairs where it's like groups of four chairs, everything is six feet apart," Hammer said. "The bleachers will be every other bleacher and only certain sections in the bleachers."
Governor Andy Beshear advised churches "if they're going to do in-person services do a bunch of them."
Father Hammer said there will be additional services on Christmas Eve – two at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. and one at 7 p.m. and midnight.
"So hopefully people will self-select and also spread themselves out. That's what we're counting on," Hammer said. "You still have to celebrate Christmas, it's too much of a gift of God's given to us."
St. Margaret Mary will also offer a virtual service for people to watch from the comfort of their homes.
"We all learned how to do something different at Thanksgiving," Hammer said. "We still had to celebrate Thanksgiving and we did as families but it was different so try to find what you can do in a different way but in a safe way."
The Cars, Carols and Candlelight at Middletown Christian Church will begin at 11:45 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Churchgoers are encouraged to come early to snag a front row seat.
"God is so much bigger than our buildings, our community is so much bigger than our buildings," Freeny said. "We can experience God in new and fresh ways because we’ve been challenged to look at things differently this year so I hope the same will be true of Christmas and Christmas Eve."
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