A look at Macomb Township places of worship and Christmas

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published December 18, 2020

 On Christmas Eve, Immanuel Lutheran Church on Romeo Plank Road has five services, including an outdoor service at 7 p.m. Its capacity this year is 200 per service.

On Christmas Eve, Immanuel Lutheran Church on Romeo Plank Road has five services, including an outdoor service at 7 p.m. Its capacity this year is 200 per service.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Typically, church gatherings on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are filled with families, often with several hundred, if not thousands of people attending.

Before services and masses commence later this week, C & G Newspapers spoke with a couple religious leaders from Macomb Township congregations to hear what the plan is to keep folks safe as they celebrate Christmas in a pandemic.

For St. Isidore Church, located at 18201 23 Mile Road, it is offering four masses between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day — three in-person and one virtual.

On Christmas Eve, the Catholic church will offer an all-virtual experience at 4 p.m., replacing its usual 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. in-person masses.

Christmas Eve mass at those times traditionally have the highest attendance, with over 3,200 people attending.

People may watch Christmas Eve mass by visiting stisidore.church.

“It’s a big disappointment that we can’t celebrate as usual,” the Rev. Ron Victor said. “We’re trying to make the best of the situation. We put a whole lot of effort into a broadcast mass.”

To enhance the virtual experience, St. Isidore has put together a special Christmas watch party gift bag for every family. Each bag includes gifts so viewers can interact with Victor when watching mass at home.

On Christmas Day, all masses are in-person beginning at midnight, 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Traditionally, Victor said the morning masses aren’t as well attended as midnight mass.

Parishioners and guests have to reserve a seat online for in-person worship, so as to not exceed capacity limits. St. Isidore is operating at 25% capacity.

“Even with that capacity, we didn’t think we could handle the crowds,” Victor said. “Plus, we didn’t want to turn anyone away.”

Folks are encouraged to arrive early and to wait in line to enter until directed forward, where they will be checked in.

Victor said the church follows strict protocols to ensure safety.

“Of course there’s mask wearing and we sanitize the building after each mass,” he said.

For seating, guests will be seated pew-by-pew starting at the front of the church.

At Immanuel Lutheran Church, 47120 Romeo Plank Road, in-person Christmas Eve services are being offered in the worship center at 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. As of Dec. 16, spots remain only for the 11 p.m. service. The 3 p.m. service will also appear on Immanuel’s Facebook page.

Immanuel requires pre-registration for all Christmas Eve services, which can be found at immlutheran.org/christmas.

Christmas Day service at Immanuel is at 10 a.m. in-person. No advanced registration is needed.

“This whole year has been one that’s been a little chaotic, stressful, fear and anxiety-ridden,” Immanuel Interim Lead Pastor Rev. Michael Heiden said. “Part of what gives people peace is structure and traditions, which are now different, like Christmas Eve.”

Last year, Heiden said Immanuel hosted around 2,500 people on Christmas Eve. Its capacity this year is 200 per service.

Inside the church, Heiden said rows will be marked off, leaving families more than six feet apart.

“We rotate the rows, so nobody is sitting in the same place somebody else did,” he added. “In between services, we bleach clean.”

Additionally, Immanuel will offer an outdoor Christmas Eve service at 7 p.m.

“I’m super excited about that service,” Heiden said. “Here’s the ideal — it’s 30 degrees and big snowflakes falling. We’re doing it in front of the chapel in the parking lot.”

The 30-40 minute outdoor service includes fire pits, hot chocolate, decorative lights and a small acoustic band. Attendees are encouraged to bring a chair.

Heiden said pandemic or not, if not fully in-person, God’s people still can gather together in spirit.

“We can still have peace and hope in Him, despite Christmas being different,” he said. “It’ll still be Christmas, even if we’re not all together in-person the way we want to be.” 

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