Since we announced changes to the Cathedral’s Christmas services yesterday, the District of Columbia has seen an exponential spike in COVID-19 infections. Unfortunately, as the omicron variant takes hold across the world, our city seems to be leading the nation in infections.
These numbers cause me to reflect on the moral responsibility of this Cathedral during this difficult time. As one of the largest churches in America, we routinely welcome more than 15,000 people to celebrate the Christmas holiday. However, given the spike in infections, I simply cannot justify gathering massive crowds as the public health situation worsens around us.
To protect the health of everyone in our community, we will shift all Cathedral services online through the holiday season, and the building will be closed to visitors and worshippers for all activities. Our intention is to re-open the Cathedral at a socially distanced reduced capacity and resume public worship on Sunday, Jan. 9.
While I am disappointed not to be able to gather in person, this pandemic has already taught us how to join together as an online community. These bonds of connection extend beyond our walls and give us ways to gather safely, even across vast distances. As the world shifts around us, I believe we need to be responsible and responsive. It is better to pause now and celebrate later than to celebrate now and be filled with regret later.
There are a few things I would ask you to do:
- Join us from home, online, for the best in Cathedral Christmas: Lessons & Carols (available starting Dec. 23 at 6 pm ET); Christmas Eve Eucharist at 10 pm ET; and an online Christmas Day organ recital at 1:30 pm ET.
- Our Sunday Eucharist will continue online at 11:15 am ET on Sunday, Dec. 26, and Sunday, Jan 2, with everything you’ve grown to love at our virtual worship. I hope you’ll join us via our YouTube channel or cathedral.org.
- Please stay safe, and monitor your health closely. If you can, limit your exposure to crowds and always wear a mask in public. Get your vaccine if you haven’t, and get your booster if you’re eligible.
In these anxious times, we all feel some degree of uncertainty, especially when things change so suddenly. But I encourage you to heed the call of the angels in Bethlehem: “Fear not!” As the people of God, we can find confidence in the good tidings of great joy. The God who walked among us in Bethlehem walks among us still, and will see us through to the end.
With every wish for a blessed Christmas,
The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith
Dean, Washington National Cathedral