Like you, we are watching the spread of COVID-19 and the omicron variant with equal measures of fatigue and wariness. I imagine that you, too, are asking what this variant means for upcoming Christmas gatherings and what steps each of us can take to protect our friends and families.
The health and safety of our extended Cathedral community is our highest priority. In these anxious times, nothing else is more important. However, nearly two years into this pandemic, we have the tools, practices and valuable experience that allow us to gather safely and responsibly.
After consultations with epidemiologists, church leaders and government officials, we have determined that by making smart choices, each of us can do our part to keep the Cathedral community safe. When gathering indoors, masking is the most effective way to stay safe against COVID. As a result, and consistent with a new order from Mayor Bowser, a properly fitting mask will be required for all events inside the Cathedral. Those who decline to wear one will be asked to leave.
With an eye toward safety, we have made some adjustments to our Christmas schedule:
- The 6 pm Lessons and Carols services on Dec. 23 and 24 will continue as scheduled.
- The 10 pm Christmas Eve Eucharist on Dec. 24 will also continue as scheduled.
- The Family Christmas Service scheduled for Dec. 23 has been canceled, due to large numbers of potentially unvaccinated children.
- The Cathedral will be closed Christmas Day and the 11:15 am Christmas Day Eucharist is canceled.
- The Christmas Day organ recital will be online only.
- For now, we plan on remaining open for Sunday worship services, including on Sunday, Dec. 26.
As always, we are delighted to welcome a community of worshippers to join virtually from wherever you find yourself this year; information for all services is available on our website at cathedral.org/Christmas.
We strongly encourage you to get vaccinated if you haven’t yet, get boosted if you are eligible, and wear a face mask in all public settings. Public health experts tell us that these three steps are essential to staying safe, especially against this new variant.
We know how important the Cathedral is to so many of you, and how meaningful it is to be able to continue worshiping as a community. After too long apart, we, too, cherish the ability to gather together again. This Cathedral was created to gather God’s people for worship, and as long as we can do so safely and responsibly, that is exactly what we intend to do.
Like that very first Christmas in Bethlehem, we find ourselves in a tumultuous period, with anxiety and uncertainty around every corner. Yet we also know that the baby in the manger was Emmanuel, God with us. Guided by faith and the best available science, we will continue to gather to celebrate the love that came down at Christmas.
From all of us at the Cathedral, I wish you a safe and healthy holiday, and pray that you will find your own way to spend Christmas with the Christ child. O come, let us adore him!
The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith
Dean, Washington National Cathedral