MISSOULA — Church leaders were among those watching with interest when the county updated its health orders last week, but churchgoers shouldn't see many big changes.
St. Francis Xavier in downtown Missoula and the Christian Life Center, have been adhering to state and county mandates since the pandemic started -- that includes fewer seats and mandatory masks.
But, the most recent health order is more strict with gatherings outside of regular services.
The Christain Life Center called off a Halloween Harvest scheduled inside the building and the Center is not conducting weddings and funerals.
Attendance has dropped noticeably as well, down about a third.
“Yeah, attendance is very different. were probably between a quarter and a third of normal,” Administrative Pastor Steve Flatau. “To have a few people coming, those that are interested is a nice option for them so we're glad for that opportunity."
In downtown Missoula, St. Francis Xavier only has to do some tweaking after the most recent health order.
Catholic churches have been told by the Bishop to strictly follow county and state directives, so those will carry over. This church sanctuary is very large, which allows for easy social distancing.
Funerals and weddings will continue as before, but social gatherings, such as coffee after mass are off-limits.
Those types of events are important for congregation unity, and so church leaders try to be creative to fill the void.
“We actually built a studio next door so were starting to break out into podcasts. We have little videos that If you go to our website or our Facebook [page], you can watch videos on different things so we're trying to make the connections that way,” Father C. Hightower of St. Francis Xavier.
He added that St. Francis Xavier has had very little pushback from members about the protocols, including wearing a mask. Hightower told MTN News that it’s all about caring for your neighbor.