RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Churches across the Valley are preparing for Christmas mass. With new concerns of the Omicron variant, precautions are still being made. Local religious leaders tell ValleyCentral that celebrating this year will be a whole lot different.
“It really has made a big difference that we have been able to kind of slowly open up again and people are really wanting to celebrate together especially these Christmas feast days,” said Bishop Daniel Flores.
Christmas is one of the busiest times for all churches. The Catholic Diocese of Brownsville is still following CDC guidelines and is urging parishioners to be careful when coming to mass.
“We need to kind of continue to take care of each other,” Flores said. “We encourage people if they possibly can that if they haven’t been vaccinated to get vaccinated, or to get the boosters. But also, to kind of just be mindful of other people, especially the elderly for whom it is still very difficult to get out.”
While this Christmas may not be completely back to normal, churches across the Valley say the biggest difference from last year to this year is finally having everyone back to celebrate the holiday.
“In fact Christmas Eve, I’ve been telling my congregation is the day where people who do not come to church are most likely to receive an invitation and actually come,” said Pastor Phillip Hoeflinger.
Pastor Phillip and the United Methodist Church in Harlingen is also preparing for Christmas services. While more people have slowly come back to church in person, Hoeflinger is still implementing safety measures for his congregation.
“We found ways and new ways to be connected through online worship, social media, and things like that.” Hoeflinger said. “But it’s not just the same as an in-person touch with somebody.”
But in the meantime the church is still having faith this Christmas and for the New Year to come.
“We’re really hoping people will continue to show forth the spirit of generosity in terms of helping each other and being present to each other and especially keeping people safe, especially our vulnerable community,” Flores said.