Almost 10 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations in Decorah are accustomed to pivoting from normal routines. This pattern of adaptability continues for local churches as they prepare for one of the most revered gatherings of the year: Christmas Eve.
Local churches are using their creativity to provide safe gatherings and online streaming options for the community. Throughout Decorah on December 24th, churches will be meeting inside, outside, and on screens in the comfort of the community members' own homes to celebrate the holiday.
Decorah Lutheran Church, located at 309 Winnebago Street, will be limiting the amount of people at each of their three indoor Christmas Eve services to keep people safe. Those who are interested in attending DLC's 3:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m., or 10:00 p.m. service should register all attendees on the DLC website.
DLC Pastor Peter Kowitz commented, "The heart of the Christmas story has always been that God comes to us in unexpected ways and places. Mary and Joseph's lives were upended by an unexpected pregnancy, a government-required census, and less-than-ideal travel and lodging conditions. And yet baby Jesus was born. The pandemic of our day, the restrictions on travel and gatherings, and the upended family traditions are not going to stop Christmas this year. At Decorah Lutheran things will be different than expected. Yet even with the limitations of the year, we will still gather with hope that God comes to us, right into the unlikely situation we're in."
Other churches are gathering in-person but will meet outside instead of inside a sanctuary. Decorah Covenant Church at 115 Washington Street will hold a very short, informal, outdoor in-person Christmas Eve service at 6:30 p.m.. There will be portable fire pits set up under the awning to keep warm. Peake's hot apple cider will be served. DCC encourages those attending, "Please dress warmly, wear a mask and bring chairs if you are unable to stand for 20-30 minutes. We encourage you to invite friends and neighbors that might be looking for a safe way to celebrate our Savior's birth in community!"
Just down the street at First Lutheran Church, they are offering a couple of distinct worship opportunities. The most traditional of the offerings will be their online "Lessons and Carols." The video will be available beginning at 3:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Another option to consider is the Sparkle and Shine Worship in the evening, starting at 7:00 p.m. in the FLC courtyard.
On the west side of Decorah, Good Shepherd Church will celebrate Christmas Eve with the community by having a worship video available on YouTube starting at 5:00 p.m.
Another option for a safe gathering will take place on Christmas Eve morning at 10:00 a.m. Decorah Covenant, Decorah UCC, First Lutheran, First United Methodist, and Good Shepherd Lutheran churches are all participating in this gathering and anyone in the community is welcome to join the event. Beginning at First Lutheran Church courtyard, a handful of local churches are collaborating for a Decorah Community "Walking Lessons and Carols" event. Participants will walk around Decorah, stopping at various church and community locations to hear the Christmas story told in word and song. A map and instructions will be provided, as well as goodie bags that kids can add to at each stop along the way! Start times will be staggered between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. to help ensure the safety of participants. Sign up for a start time here. Dress for the weather, wear a mask, and keep good distancing as you gather, walk, and celebrate. For questions or more information about this event, contact FLC's Pastor Melissa Bills at 563-382-2638.
This list is by no means comprehensive, as many of the churches contacted did not have set plans yet or were unavailable for comment. If you are interested in learning more about a Christmas Eve plan, check out the specific church's website or Facebook page or contact the church's main office for more details.