Rising numbers of corona cases, new contact restrictions, Christmas markets are being canceled – it is already clear that the festival will look different this year. The churches are already preparing for it.
Sitting together with the family on Christmas Eve, giving presents under the Christmas tree and going to Christmas mass in the evening – this tradition still exists in many families today, regardless of the role played by faith. “These are expectations that have existed since childhood,” says Pastor Andreas Rummel, press spokesman for the Evangelical Church in the Palatinate. Therefore, despite Corona, he reckons that many people will want to attend church on the holidays this year. To meet this request, the planning is already in full swing.
A focus will be placed on outdoor worship, Rummel said. In Miesau, for example, there should be a forest service together with the Catholic community. This is not an isolated incident. Everywhere in Rhineland-Palatinate, the two large churches are planning ecumenical services and events. They stand together, they say from the Palatinate.
More services with fewer visitors on Christmas Eve
Outdoor trade fairs are also planned in Pirmasens. Alternatively, there are congregations that offer various stations where the believers can stop for a moment so that not too many people stay in one place for a long period of time. But the online offer, which has been expanded since the beginning of the year, is also offered on the holidays, says Rummel.
“We don’t want to send anyone home because there aren’t enough seats.”
The offers are being increased all over the country. The diocese of Speyer, for example, is increasing church services throughout the area. Instead of one day nursery and one Christmas mass, there will be two celebrations and three masses in the cathedral. In the parish of Maria Schutz in Kaiserslautern, the nativity scenes are replaced by short church services. The pastor there wants to react spontaneously to the number of visitors. “If the worshipers flock, further services will take place outdoors or at 4 pm at short notice. We don’t want to send anyone home because there is not enough space.”
Celebrations in football stadiums are becoming less likely
At the Evangelical Church of Hesse and Nassau (EKHN), some parishes have been planning the Christmas season since summer. “From the celebration in the football stadium by far to the To Go nativity scene through the town to the almost classic streaming church service in the Corona crisis, there are many imaginative ideas here,” says press spokesman Volker Rahn. However, the situation has worsened again due to the increasing corona numbers.
The celebrations in the streets and squares desired by Church President Volker Jung are becoming less likely. The trend is towards small, short celebrations “non-stop” with very few visitors, according to Rahn.
The diocese of Mainz is more cautious. From there it says: Exact plans could not yet be named, “because nobody in the diocese of Mainz can foresee the current corona developments either. The diocese drives here on sight – like everyone else”.
The message remains the same: do not be afraid
The Evangelical Church in the Rhineland takes a theological approach to Christmas during the corona pandemic. From there it says: The message is the same: “Do not be afraid.” Corona does not change the fact that it is Christmas, the angels come to the shepherds at Christmas, for whom things are not going well either. “This message also applies to 2020. Behind all of this there is still a God who holds the world in his hands.” For this purpose, devotions to take away are designed, telephone devotions are offered and newspaper supplements are designed.
Fear of the ban on worship
In all the efforts to find alternatives, however, there are already setbacks. It is said of the Protestant Church in the Palatinate that the Weidenkirche on the Kaiserberg, which takes place every year, was not approved this year. A church service on the Betzenberg was also rejected on the grounds that no spectators were allowed to watch football there.
So far, however, no person responsible has wanted to really think about one scenario: A possible ban on worship if the corona numbers continue to rise sharply. “That would be the GAU”, they say from the Palatinate. It was already noticed at Easter that people were being left alone, but Christmas was another number. Volker Rahn from EKHN also speaks of a GAU. “That would be a religious catastrophe.”