Silent night, holy night.
The church will be a little quieter at Christmas this year as fewer people will be allowed inside places of worship on one of the biggest days of celebration in the Christian faith. But residents of Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester who have not secured seats for the in-person service will still be able to participate in many Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services virtually.
At St. Gabriel’s in Marion, the Rev. Robert Malm said the church has been preparing to move to a virtual service since before the pandemic began.
“We felt like it was a wave from the future and we had to do it anyway,” he said.
So when the closings began in March, the church was ready for this shift online.
Malm added that it means a lot to parishioners to be able to see their own church, clergy and fellow parishioners, even if it’s not in person.
He said virtual service isn’t a perfect substitute for in-person worship, but it’s still “better than not attending at all.”
And St. Gabriels has had a steady audience for its Sunday services since the pandemic began, typically drawing between 40 and 70 homes each week.
“It will be interesting to see how the numbers go up on Thursday and Friday,” Malm said.
The church has even hired a dedicated technical engineer to help the church with virtual services.
The extra help has also paid off. Malm said that with a new internet router the church recently purchased, services appear to be delivered using thousands of dollars worth of equipment.
In reality, it’s just a few well-placed cameras showing angles of the choir, priest and organist.
Malm said the system worked so well that last Sunday’s broadcast was “just perfect”.
“We are hopeful this week before Christmas,” he added.
Services in Saint-Gabriel will be held on Christmas Eve at 4 p.m. and 9 p.m., and at 9 a.m. on Christmas Day.
All three services are limited to 25 people in person. Places must be reserved by calling or emailing the church. The 4 p.m. and 9 a.m. services will air on Vimeo and Old Rochester Community Television.
Contact information can be found on the church’s website at stgabrielsmarion.org.
At the First Congregational Church in Rochester, a service will be held on Christmas Eve at 6:30 p.m.
The 25-person service will be held in the church sanctuary, with additional space in the Fellowship Hall. Others will be able to stream the service on the church’s website atrochestercongregational.com.
Pastor Colby Olson said the service will be “Christmas from a different perspective”, looking at the birth of Christ in a new way, amid the pandemic.
“It’s a time when people have a lot of issues with anxiety and depression,” Olson said.
At St. Anthony’s Church in Mattapoisett, three Masses will be held on Christmas Eve at 3 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m., and two on Christmas Day at 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. The 9:30 a.m. Mass will be broadcast on the Church’s Facebook page. Tickets are required for in-person versions of all three Masses.