SEATTLE – The restrictions of COVID-19 mean lots of changes for Christmas Masses, but one thing that won’t change at St. James Cathedral is its beautiful decorations.
“People are sacrificing so much at Christmas this year,” said Maria Laughlin, the cathedral’s director of stewardship and development. “We decided to go all out.”
There will be plenty of poinsettias, trees and other decorations, and people can stop in to enjoy them and pray from December 26 through the feast of the Baptism of the Lord on January 10, Laughlin said. (The cathedral is typically open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.)
A big change, of course, is that instead of greeting more than 7,000 people over six Christmas Masses at the cathedral, only 200 people are allowed for each service this year, said Corinna Laughlin, the cathedral’s pastoral assistant for liturgy and Maria’s sister. Those Mass slots were all filled within about 10 minutes of registration opening, Maria Laughlin noted.
But for the first time, people all around the archdiocese will be able to join Archbishop Paul D. Etienne for Mass at 10 p.m. Christmas Eve and at 8 a.m. Christmas Day via livestream on the archdiocese’s Facebook page. In previous years, the Christmas Eve Mass was broadcast on a Seattle TV station, but now the cathedral has its own camera system to allow high-quality livestreaming.
“I suspect that far more than 7,000 will experience Christmas at the cathedral this year,” Corinna Laughlin said.
In a normal year, the cathedral would have a choir of 70 singers, eight brass players and a timpanist, joined by a “huge congregation” singing the carols, she said. This year, “we are limited to one cantor and instrumentalist. Nevertheless, we’ll have a lovely candlelight prelude to the Mass, and the music will be simple but festive.”
The cathedral’s manager scene will be set up in the east apse, rather than the cathedral chapel, so that people can visit it with safe distancing, and it can be shown on the livestream so everyone can experience it, Maria Laughlin said. She manages the livestreaming of Sunday Masses and other services from the unheated, third-story attic of the cathedral.
“The funny thing is, we never anticipated, obviously, a time when so many people would be homebound, so it’s been amazing to be able to offer this outreach ... to extend the archbishop’s mission,” she said. “For us, it’s been one of the blessings of the pandemic.”
“It’s a great feeling to know that you’re bringing the Mass to so many people,” she added. “It’s so rewarding because people are so appreciative.”
Maria Laughlin said she will miss the crowds this year. “It is one of the most heartwarming things about Christmas – to crowd in with everybody and to be there with everyone,” she said.
But even with the limitations, December 24 and 25 will be a celebration of the Savior’s birth.
“It will be beautiful, joyful, and will definitely feel like Christmas,” Corinna Laughlin said.
Jean Parietti is the local news editor for NWCatholic.org and features editor for Northwest Catholic magazine. You can reach her at [email protected].
Jean Parietti es editora local para el sitio web NWCatholic.org y destacada editora de la revista Noroeste Católico/Northwest Catholic. Pueden contactarle en: [email protected].
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