As the holiday season begins, the Rev. Joseph Elston has a plan for St. John the Evangelist and St. Joseph Marello parishes in Pittston.
“We’ve added a couple of Masses here and there,” he said. “There have to be reservations made.”
Most parishes returned to holding in-person services over the summer, but they are making plans for how to handle the influx of parishioners who normally want to attend Mass on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Elston will require reservations for Masses on both days, just as he does for the weekend Masses the parishes hold now.
“I think we’re going to have a good number of people but I don’t think it’s going to be overwhelming,” he said.
St. John the Evangelist will host Christmas Eve Masses at 2 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. while St. Joseph Marello will have services at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and midnight.
On Christmas Day, St. John the Evangelist will host Masses at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. and St. Joseph Marello at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
Elston stressed that anyone hoping to attend a Mass for the holiday must make a reservation over the phone by speaking with someone at the parish office between Dec. 7 and Dec. 21.
Elston said anyone attending Mass must wear a mask and the church is sanitized between each service. For those who would prefer to stay home, both parishes have been filming services and posting them via Facebook, Youtube and the parish websites.
“We’ve been taping them,” Elston said. “We’re going to keep doing that until this is over.”
Elston encouraged anyone unsure about attending services to “do whatever they feel safe with.”
“There won’t be the crowds we’re used to,” he said. “But it will still be decorated and festive. I’m looking forward to it.”
St. John’s Care and Concern Ministries is still planning to hold the annual Santa’s North Pole giveaway on Dec. 16. Elston noted that event has always required reservations for families in need to receive donated toys, coats and other items.
“It will be socially distanced, we may do a drive-thru,” he said. “But it’s scheduled.”
For the Rev. Margaret Ziegler and the Langcliffe Presbyterian Church, Avoca, smaller congregation means less need for reservations, but they are limiting access to areas of the building and requiring masks for all those attending services.
“We will do a traditional Sunday candle lighting and Advent wreath, but are limiting our decorations to the sanctuary,” she said. “We are keeping our worship services short, about a half an hour.”
The congregation has also sponsored an Angel Tree to collect gifts for local children, and Ziegler said they will host a drive-up or walk-up supper with Christmas stockings from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6.
Langcliffe Presbyterian will hold its traditional Vespers service Dec. 20.
“This congregation’s tradition is not to have services on the 24th and 25th,” Ziegler said. “This did not seem like a good year to change that.”
The Vespers service will take place at 4 p.m. Dec. 20 with “scripture, carols, candles and passing the light,” Ziegler said.
Masks are required for all events and services and seating is limited to marked pews. Ziegler said the congregation’s size allows them to not worry about taking reservations.
“We have had about two-thirds of our small congregation and some visitors attending regularly and still fall within the range of 25 in attendance in our large sanctuary,” she said.
“The holidays will certainly be different, but we are doing our best to keep them festive and meaningful,” she said.