We're entering a busy time for churches in our region.
Religious leaders are working to keep worshipers safe while attending in person services.
Interim Pastor James Thomas of St. John’s Lutheran Church says, "Probably one of the few churches in the area that has been meeting on Sundays. We’ve got some real stringent protocols that we use here at the church."
Those protocols have been working out well for St. John’s Lutheran Church on North Ninth Street in Stroudsburg. The sanctuary which can normally seat around 300 people has only been entertaining about 40 worshipers. Everyone is required to wear a mask at all times and every other bench is used.
Thomas says, "Families may sit together but individuals sit on opposite ends of the bench, every other so that people are more than six feet apart."
Their services are available in person and on Facebook, which they’d like to continue for Christmas Eve.
Thomas says, "We will be paying attention to what the Governor is saying, we’ll be paying attention to what is happening with our own people here so that’s kind of where we’re at now. Things are kind of fluid."
Temple Israel of the Poconos in Stroudsburg was also holding in person services until about two weeks ago when the numbers of Covid cases locally spiked up again. Now the synagogue is closed and services along with Chanukah will be held individually at home and virtually.
Rabbi Baurch Melman of Temple Israel of the Poconos says, "The highest mitzvah in Judaism is preserve life, we call that pikuach nefesh so that overrides everything else."
They’ve handed out a care package to all members to help them celebrate. Some of the items include dreidels and chocolate coins. Instead of getting together for a big party where people bring their Menorahs from home and light them together, that’s happening on the synagogue’s Facebook page each night starting tomorrow night. Passersby will also get to take part.
Melman says, "We have our display here, we have a beautiful Hannukkiah Menorah here and we open up the windows at night and the glow of the lights, light up the whole street."
The decision on how to handle holiday services here at St. John’s Lutheran Church will be made this Sunday during the regular service.