It’s said that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, and even in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems that a number of the county’s churches are trying not to lose out on the spirit of Christmas.
At Bridgewater in Tunkhannock, the Church held its #forTunkhannockChristmas events on Dec. 23 and 24 to try and create some semblance of Christmas activities for Bridgewater members and the rest of the Tunkhannock community.
“For these couple days, we can put away all of the fear and anxiety that this year has brought upon us,” Bridgewater Pastor Rich Clark said. “The church is the best message, and we want to continue to spread God’s glory on earth.”
A warm-up event took place outside Bridgewater on Church Street in Tunkhannock, and had activities and a picture taking areas for families. When people started to arrive on Dec. 23, they were first greeted by members Kelsey Day and Abigail Johns, who handed out candy canes to everyone as they arrived and direct them toward the festivities.
The festivities took place in the parking lot where kids were able to make homemade ornaments, and take pictures in Santa’s sleigh which was parked in front of a 20-foot Christmas tree that Bridgewater cut down by hand.
James and Jesse Bixby of Tunkhannock were two of the first kids to arrive, and immediately took pictures in Santa’s sleigh. They also took advantage of the cookies and hot chocolate that were for sale at the event.
“That’s a huge tree,” Jesse said as he looked in awe of the 20-foot Christmas tree.
Inside, as socializing was going on, the sanctuary was decorated with wreaths and Christmas trees and the chairs were set up so social distancing could still be applied.
Bridgewater expanded the number of Christmas services it had planned to do, so everyone could get the chance to come in and worship. When the first service on Wednesday started at 4:30 p.m., a small crowd filed into the sanctuary, and was greeted by the church’s greeters.
The crowd was greeted by a performance of ‘Silent Night,’ ‘Joy to the World,’ and ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ by the Bridgewater Band. Lane Bonewitz was the lead singer.
After the concert of carols, candles were handed out to everyone in attendance for a time of prayer and reflection with the spirit of the newly born Christ child.
On Thursday night, however, weather wreaked havoc on Christmas Eve, as torrential rains caused Bridgewater to move all of the outdoor events, including Santa’s sleigh, inside the church hall.
Clark said that the rain didn’t damper the holiday spirits, however.
“We weren’t going to give up, we just changed things up as we went along,” Clark said. “The weather kept some families away, but people still came to celebrate Christmas.”
Clark said that even with the weather, the three services on Dec. 24 were still very well attended.
“Christmas is one of the best times of the year,” Clark said. “I’m happy that we found a way to have these services safely. The members and the people of the town look very happy. Everyone has been through a lot.”
At Grace Fellowship Church, about a half mile away, also on Bridge Street, Christmas Eve services were held in-person, but also broadcast live on Facebook, so anyone who could not attend in-person could view the service.
As torrential downpours were going on outside, inside Grace Fellowship Pastor Mike Conroy told his members the weather was a more than appropriate ending to the year 2020.
“It seems that torrential downpours and warnings of floods, seems like the appropriate 2020 Christmas Eve forecast,” Conroy said at the beginning of the service. “But even with everything that has happened this year, we can’t lose the hope of Christmas, and need to remember what Christmas is all about.”