LIMA — As a trying year winds down, what can Christmas offer? For many church leaders in the region, the answer was simple.
“We’re hoping and praying that 2021 brings good tidings of great joy to all men and women,” said Paul Hoverman, director of worship arts at First United Methodist Church in Van Wert. “The vaccine is getting out there now. We’re just hopeful that we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”
But first, churches will have to get through Christmas Eve. In a normal year, Christmas Eve services are usually a little special thanks to candlelight vigils and carols. In 2020, everyone is adapting to this year’s changes a little differently.
Hoverman’s church, for example, opted for the digital route. He said church members at FUMC had expressed some concerns about gathering, so they decided to make their online show something to remember.
On Christmas Eve, the church will release two worship services online. The first features segments of local families reading the Christmas story interspersed with them playing Christmas carols. The second — a more traditional candlelight service — will bring in an eight-person choir together with a large chamber orchestra to play carols and some original compositions by K. Lee Scott.
“It should be a nice service. Trying to make lemonade. Aren’t we all?” Hoverman said.
Other churches have incorporated the digital option while also providing the more standard worship service. Marcia Phillips, office administrator at St. John’s Mennonite Church, said the church is creating space by opening up the other rooms to be able to simulcast this year’s service. In a normal year, they’d do it by candlelight, but this year, they’ve had to be creative.
“It’s hard to sanitize all those candles. That is something that we have opted not to do, but we’re implementing part of the service to still offer some symbolism for the light of Christ,” she said.
Candles will also play a part for the Christmas service at Shawnee Alliance Church. The team there has adapted well to bringing their services online, Worship Pastor John Long said, because they were already streaming them. But this year, they’ve expanded those offerings. One worship service will be entirely online, but the rest — four in total — will be offered throughout the day for those looking to worship in person.
The year’s theme is the adventure of faith, Lead Pastor Kris Browning said. The day will feature multiple testimonies from those who have been able to find a fulfilling life through their Christian beliefs.
“We have some testimonies that I’m floored and wowed by,” Long said. “These things actually happened. It’s crazy how God can do miraculous things. I think we forget that, as human beings, we tend to dwell in the negative or what we see. We forget that God is still working in the midst of everything.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.