RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Christmas Eve services returned to allowing people to inside churches across the Triangle at many locations for the first time in two years.
David Hailey, Hayes Barton Baptist Church pastor, said he wants community members to take every precaution they can this Christmas, especially as omicron variant COVID-19 cases continue to spread.
“We just want everyone to be as careful as possible but we know that you have to live your lives and that’s why we continue to have in-person gatherings but we just want to be very, very careful,” Hailey said.
At Hayes Barton Baptist, that means asking congregants to mask up, making sure leaders are vaccinated, and marking off pews for social distancing.
“We do have sections in the church where people if they want to still social distance they can,” Bill Teague said.
Last year, the church closed its doors during the last winter surge.
“We were doing everything online, we were recording services and then broadcasting them and so forth,” Hailey said.
But this year, families returned for the highly-anticipated Christmas Eve services.
“I think we all have missed worshiping together,” Christina Powell said.
Powell said the COVID-19 precautions in place made her and her sister feel safer returning to in-person services.
“I couldn’t of asked for more protection,” Powell said.
Before the pandemic, around 500 to 600 people would attend the church weekly, but now, attendance is still half that.
The church has reworked how they reach people online by streaming services and offering hybrid in-person and online meetings.
“It’s just made us more aware that there are many, many more people that are joining us we’re not going to be in the room but they’re going to be joining us by way of television or by way of our live stream broadcasting,” Hailey said. “So we try and keep in mind those people who can’t come.”