KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Thousands of families across the Kansas City metro will be gathering for in-person Christmas services this year.
As the metro sees another surge in COVID-19 cases, church leaders are asking church-goers to take every step possible to avoid outbreaks.
For many families, Christmas isn't complete without the Candlelight Christmas Eve service at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.
Pastor Adam Hamilton said last year the church only presented its worship virtually. This year, Hamilton said it is hard to guess an exact number, but he expects tens of thousands of people will come to in-person services at the multiple locations across the metro.
"We want people to have a great service and great Christmas and not to give someone an unexpected gift they don’t really want to find they had five days after Christmas," Hamilton said.
As a response to the surge in COVID-19 cases, Hamilton said the church is not requiring but strongly encouraging everyone wear masks.
"Our staff, our pastors, my family and I will all be in masks," Hamilton said.
Hamilton said crews work to clean the building and candles people touch between services. The building also has an ultraviolet filtration system.
Hamilton is looking forward to sharing his message that will combine the meaning of Christmas and the challenges of the world.
"In the story of Jesus coming, we find light and hope in life in the midst of our weariness and darkness, and we are going to talk a little bit about how he calls on us to love our neighbors," Hamilton said.
It's a similar message across the metro in Kansas City, Kansas.
Rev. Tony Carter of Salem Baptist Church said he'll focus on faith and facts during his Christmas service Sunday.
"I share the relevant information, where we are as it relates to the virus and the impact that it is having in Wyandotte County, you know they just found the first two omicron cases here," Carter said.
Carter said everyone who comes to in-person services is required to wear a mask, have their temperature taken and sign their name on a form. He also asks people to socially distance with their households in the pews.
He said people must take all the steps they can to protect themselves and others, and after that, faith steps in.
"I just want everybody to have a merry Christmas, and please be safe, do what you can — not just for yourself but also for others," Carter said.