"We want to do that as safely as we can, but also provide a way for people to gather in a way that will touch their heart during the Christmas season."By Shelby Cassesse

ALLEGHENY COUNTY, Pa. (KDKA) — Local churches offered diverse options for their members to attend Christmas Eve services on Thursday.

Some offered online and drive-in style services while others opted for downsized, in-person options.

At St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church in North Huntingdon Township, Msgr. Paul Fitzmaurice said each in-person Mass had a limited number of reservations available. Members also listened to the Mass from their cars on the radio.

Angela Moffatt said she didn’t want to go to an in-person service and attending from her car was something different.

“Actually, it was kind of nice,” she said. “It was way better than sitting at home in front of the television.”

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Fitzmaurice said each Mass had a skeleton crowd, and masks and social distancing were enforced.

“We had to have reservations. So the 4 p.m. Mass, which is often literally from the rafters, was not,” he said.

Places of worship are excluded from Pennsylvania’s current coronavirus restrictions. However, Governor Tom Wolf’s order encourages church leaders to “find alternate methods of worship.”

At Allison Park Church, which has six locations in the Pittsburgh area, lead pastor Jeff Leake says an in-person element is important.

“There’s some people that, for their mental health and their well-being during this holiday season, it’s important for them to be with one another to have a time to worship,” he said.

Leake says the church also used the reservation method for Christmas services, keeping them at about 25 percent capacity. Members that didn’t get a reservation were able to watch online.

The church would normally host 14 Christmas Eve services. This year, there were four.

“We want to do that as safely as we can, but also provide a way for people to gather in a way that will touch their heart during the Christmas season,” Leake said.

Shelby Cassesse