Could the Omicron variant impact holiday gatherings, religious services?

29November 2021

The holidays are here. Hanukkah is underway, and Advent season has already started.   

With the potential arrival of a new COVID variant, WRAL News spoke to local religious leaders, including a Rabbi and a pastor, about how they plan to handle gatherings during this important religious season.

December is a big month for church leaders, but the new Omicron variant has many on high alert.

Father Peter Grace of St. Ann Catholic Church expects thousands to attend the celebration of the Virgin Mary’s birthday on December 12.

He says the event will go on as planned.

“This is like saying ‘It’s your mother’s birthday. Stay home,'” he said. “No, we’re not going to stay home. We’re coming, but we will be careful,”

Since the start of the pandemic they’ve offered both online and in-person Mass. Right now, his church is split in half: Those who want to wear a mask sit on one side, and those who choose not to wear a mask sit on the other side.

As of now, neither vaccinations nor masks are required.

“I won’t have to require because I know they’re going to come with masks,” he said. “It’s pretty easy in that sense.”

Rabbi Zalman Bluming with Duke University says most of the Hanukkah events will be held outdoors, but regular services will continue as planned indoors. He says now more than ever, the lighting of the Menorah is needed.

“As religious leaders, I think our objective is to spread faith, not fear. To spread optimism, not just to paralyze with worry and concern,” said Rabbi Bluming.

Father Grace says if there is some sort of major outbreak, he and his team will adjust.

“Ultimately, each individual has to weigh the data and make their own choice. We’re trying to respect that and yet, also realize we’re dealing with a pandemic and we have to consider other people,” he said.

This post was originally published on this site

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