Churches preparing for scaled down Christmas mass amid worsening COVID-19 pandemic

Christmas is normally one of the busiest times of the year for churches, but churches are making alternate plans this holiday season, due to the ongoing and worsening COVID-19 pandemic.

While it all depends on the church, many places of worship are having a very scaled-back version of the Christmas Mass for this Christmas.

For Father John Bonavitacola at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Tempe, the Christmas service for 2020 might be the most unique service he has ever seen.

"So normally, especially Christmas Eve services, I’ll see lots and lots of little kids and they’re all pumped up. The energy is great, it’s contagious," said Father Bonavitacola. "This year, it’ll be a little more subdued because we don’t have a large crowd."

For the first time ever, the church will be taking reservations for their mass. The mass usually draws over 1,000 people, but this year, seats will be limited to 200, with a live stream set up for those unable to attend in-person.

"It’s probably an opportunity to focus a little more on what it was really like that first Christmas: Mary and Joseph, when just a few shepherds showed up," said Father Bonavitacola.

Christ Church of the Valley, which typically draws large crowds, is also preparing for a scaled-back celebration.

"We did something we’ve never done before in the history of our church," said Pastor Ashley Wooldridge. "We’ve moved all of our Christmas experiences outdoors. We’re calling it 'Christmas Under the Stars.' On all of our campuses, you can spread out. People are social distancing, wearing masks, and it provides a much safer environment."

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COVID-19 symptoms

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

RELATED: How coronavirus differs from flu: Symptoms to watch for

COVID-19 resources

CDC Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)

AZDHS Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)