Festivals this year have been a no show. Right from Ugadi, Easter, and Eid to Ganesh Chaturthi, Dussehra, and Diwali – they have all been quiet. It’s now Christmas time and with places of worship slowly opening up, churches across the city are prepping for the big day to celebrate the festival, while mindfully trying to keep COVID at bay.
Christmas is that one of the two main festivals that Christians in India look forward, all through the year, to celebrate. This year, however, the pandemic has dampened the festive spirit across the globe. With several countries like the United Kingdom and others imposing lockdowns following the new strain wreaking havoc, India is still looking for ways to ring in the festival without enforcing any curbs. Hence, churches have taken it upon themselves to celebrate Christmas while following all the necessary precautions in the face of the pandemic.
Churches, during Christmas, see a larger congregation than usual. Not just members from the church but curious tourists too. St. Paul’s Church near Siripuram looks all pretty in the twinkling, dazzling lights this month. The church is a magnificent edifice that enjoys continued patronage for centuries. To this day the edifices of St. Paul’s church exist in their original place and have managed to retain, to a great degree, their original architectural flavor, despite the necessary structural modifications and extensions that have been effected from time to time.
With just hours left for the festival, the church is following all basic guidelines to check the spread of the notorious virus. It is ensuring all participants on Christmas follow the guidelines laid down by the government. Speaking Hello Vizag, Ravi Leon, Secretary of St. John’s and St. Paul’s Churchs said the pews are all being disinfected and separate units where temperature checks, masks, sanitizers, and social distancing will all be monitored.
But this year we are conducting mass services on the lawns for 350 people by putting shamiana with sidewalls to maintain social distancing measures. After the service, we will offer holy-communion to the devotees only in individual cups in separate trays, which we started in November to maintain safety between priest and people. We also went a step ahead and asked its members above 60 years of age and below 9 years to refrain from attending the service on Christmas and encouraged them to watch it live on YouTube, instead, which we are streaming live tomorrow. As far as Christmas choirs are concerned, we conducted online yesterday to minimize the contraction of the virus during practices and on the day of Christmas.
Sharing his concern about the prevailing pandemic, R Raja Govinda Rao, a regular churchgoer said “this year we are caring for one another by staying safe and staying separate by practicing social distancing.” People, especially senior citizens, still prefer to use their live streaming services.
“Right from the entrance to the benches, we have people checking and helping members with masks and sanitizers and reminding them to maintain distance. Towards this end, we will allow two persons to sit on a single bench said Parish Pastor Rev. P Sudharsana Rao of Trinity Lutheran church at Jagadama. He also said we are posting police personal to ensure all of these are followed and there’s peace and precaution. Stating further he said, senior citizens and children, are not allowed due to the Covid pandemic.
With churches vowing and hoping to take all the necessary precautions while celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, here’s Hello Vizag wishing its readers a Merry and safe Christmas!
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