MERIDIAN, Idaho — Churches tend to see big crowds of people gather around Christmas time for Christmas services, but this year that isn't a safe option.
Ten Mile Christian Church is one of the churches in the Treasure Valley changing its typical holiday traditions to meet the state's COVID-19 safety guidelines.
"This year, you realize how much you take for granted," Ten Mile Christian Senior Minister Steve Moore said. "We can't bunch up together for a special service like this, cause normally, we would probably be just packed in."
Ten Mile Christian Church's worship center can typically fit up to 600 people for a service, and in an average year, the church would see about 2,500 people attend five Christmas time services.
This year, following the COVID-19 safety guidelines, the church is working double-time with ten much smaller celebrations.
Each service requires social distancing and masks for staff and guests.
"You have to think about safety protocols because we want to do our part in that regard," Moore said.
Ten Mile Christian Church also live-streamed service for those staying at home this year.
"You have to think about how you're going to communicate with people who aren't necessarily in the room," Moore said.
The church wanted those staying at home to feel safe and experience a Christmas service.
"We have people that we know are vulnerable right now to this virus and who are really taking extra precautions to protect family and friends. So we still want them to feel like they can participate and be a part of our church life and our church life and our church body," Ten Mile Christian Executive Minister April Alford said.
The typical activities Ten Mile Christian Church holds include a Bethlehem live nativity scene. This tradition involves too many people close to one another, so the church had to get creative.
Volunteers and staff came up with a virtual celebration named "25 days of Christmas."
"We have videoed something for people to do. Everything from making a Christmas craft to videos of devotional thoughts," Moore said.
Communion also had to change. Instead of using candles, the church decided to use flashlights instead.
"The lighting of the candles this year is we do the phones instead of the candles, but all of that is just what people look forward to, and it's a tradition for people. It just gives them a sense of comfort and familiarity that they are looking for," Alford said.
Even though the traditional settings might have changed, Ten Mile Christian Church'ss message has not.
"Even if we're having to social distance and so some different things like that, it doesn't change the message our how we want to communicate that this year," Alford said.