Christmas is typically the busiest time of the year for San Diego churches, but many have scaled back their celebrations because of the coronavirus pandemic. Churches in San Diego have been operating outdoors for a few months due to state-mandated restrictions and are now preparing for Christmas services outside.
At Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Bonita, Christmas mass will be in the parking lot and family will have to stay apart while they sit in beach chairs. Despite the restrictions, the faithful are grateful to still have a spiritual connection.
“Our ability to connect with the church and our parishioners and other community members is very, very important,” said Vic Villanes, a parishioner at Corpus Christi Catholic Church.
As he wore a face mask and shield, Villanes explained how COVID-19 is affecting the way his family celebrates the holiday.
“Initially we were going to celebrate together but unfortunately I have a family member who is in the medical field who ended up coming down with covid,” Villanes said.
As Villanes and other families with personal hardships, their religious community gives them hope.
“We want them to make sure that we provide them a very safe environment where they can still feel safe coming to church and worshipping and celebrating the Christmas holiday,” said Rev. Efrain Bautista, pastor of Corpus Christi Catholic Church.
Churches of all denominations have been forced to make logistical changes to adhere to the stay-at-home order. Some have reduced holiday services and altered their usual gatherings. At Corpus Christi Catholic Church traditional midnight mass on Christmas Eve has been moved to 8 p.m.
“Like everyone else around the world, churches are also struggling,” Bautista said.
Bautista says financial contributions to his church have dropped this year due to the pandemic. At the same time, his church has taken on extra safety expenses like hand sanitizer and tents. Still for many people of faith in San Diego, churches will remain a place of celebration on Christmas.
“We cannot lose hope and we cannot lose faith,” Bautista said.
Many churches in San Diego will offer Christmas services online for people who don’t feel comfortable attending in person, or for people who are feeling ill.