How local churches are holding Christmas services in the age of COVID-19 |

How local churches are holding Christmas services in the age of COVID-19

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For Troy Lewis, lead pastor at Steamboat Christian Center, lack of in-person church means missing out on hugs, handshakes, high fives and smiles from across the room.

“People need to be able to give a hug and sing together and see a smiling face from their friend,” he said. “All of those things we’re missing right now, and it definitely is not the same.”

These changes due to COVID-19 arrived in March, and Lewis said the holiday season makes the loss of physical fellowship even more apparent as more than 1,000 people typically gather together for a night of songs and an inspiring message on Christmas Eve.

Instead, Steamboat Christian Center will hold three livestreamed services at 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Christmas Eve, which can be viewed at or on the church’s Facebook page.

Other local churches also are discovering ways to celebrate traditional Christmas services with the community while abiding by Routt County’s COVID-19 guidelines, which are currently under level red restrictions with the exception of restaurants.

Father Ernest Bayer, of Holy Name Catholic Church, said the church has opted to hold its traditional Christmas and Christmas Eve Masses virtually, because the services normally draws a crowd of thousands, Bayer said.

The Christmas Eve service will be broadcast on YouTube at 4 p.m., and church members are invited to come to the church from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Christmas Eve to receive holy communion, Bayer added. The Christmas service will be broadcast at 8 a.m., with the same invitation to receive holy communion after. The YouTube videos can be accessed on the church’s website at

“For Catholics, it’s really important to receive holy communion at Christmas,” he said. “But most folks are content to watch the mass from home.”

While virtual church is “better than nothing,” Bayer said it’s hardly a substitute for the in-person experience.

“We were meant to be together and celebrating our faith together,” he said. “Jesus pulled people together and formed a community.”

Heart of Steamboat United Methodist Church will hold an online service at 5.p.m. Christmas Eve, and members of the community are invited to come by the church until 8 p.m. to light a candle in the snow. At 8 p.m., Heart of Steamboat is holding a virtual singing of “Silent Night“.

“The traditions of going to Christmas Eve service and then going to dinner or being able to take that time and fellowship with each other are really hard to replace,” said Maggie Taylor, director of youth and connectional ministries at Heart of Steamboat. “It’s so important as part of a community in being able to share that conversation with each other.”

Local church Christmas services

Concordia Lutheran Church, 755 Concordia Lane

10 a.m. Christmas Day, in-person by reservation only. A recording will be available to watch on the church’s YouTube channel, Steamboat Lutheran.

Hayden Congregational Church, 202 E. Jefferson Ave.

All Hayden households will receive a bag on their doorknob filled with a candle, scripture and some instructions inviting you to step onto your front porch at 7:30 p.m. Christmas Eve, light your candle and join in singing “Silent Night” as many others in the community are doing the same. The church bells also will ring out.

Heart of Steamboat United Methodist Church, 736 Oak St.

5 p.m. Christmas Eve, live on the church’s Facebook page followed by an invitation for anyone to place candles in the snow in the church’s courtyard from 5 to 8 p.m.

Holy Name Catholic Church, 504 Oak St.

4 p.m. Christmas Eve (livestream only) followed by in-person communion and Adoration from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church, 400 S. Sharp Ave., Oak Creek

4 p.m. Christmas Eve (livestream only) followed by in-person communion and Adoration from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 846 Oak St.

11 a.m. Christmas Eve, livestream only at

8:05 p.m. Christmas Eve, a special musical prelude, livestream only at

8:30 p.m. Christmas Eve, livestream only at

Steamboat Christian Center, 821 Dougherty Road

4, 6 and 8 p.m. Christmas Eve, broadcast live at and on the church’s Facebook page

Craig Henningfield, pastor at Concordia Lutheran Church, said the church is broadcasting a Christmas Eve service at

“We’re doing our best to make it available to the public, but we’re not in any way trying to invite a large crowd,” Henningfield said.

Despite most churches transitioning to virtual or limited in-person services in 2020, several local church leaders said they have seen an increase in participation from community members, particularly from those new to a congregation.

“Certainly during COVID, I think, people were hungry for spirituality and comfort,” Bayer said. “I think COVID opened people’s hearts up to what we really need.”

Jeffrey Sublett, next generation pastor at Steamboat Christian Center, said the same has been true for members of his congregation.

“If you come to our church, everyone is going to hug you, and we give out cookies,” he said. “They’re really missing that connection, and that’s what we’re having a hard time with.”

Sublett said the decision to host completely virtual church while others have opted for limited in-person interaction has been difficult, but he believes it is necessary to decrease case count and help save local businesses in the community.

“We don’t want to be a superspreader,” he said. “We don’t want to do that to our community. It’s not just save our season; it’s also save our community.”

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