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Last year, Collective Church acquired the historic Dreka Theater in Downtown DeLand to hold services and rent out as an event space.

COVID-19 meant a change in plans.

Pastor Ben Collins said while the church has sources of revenue not typical for a church, that hasn’t completely insulated it from the economic fallout of the pandemic.

“One of the things that makes Collective unique is we have kind of from the beginning wanted to acknowledge that there’s something that doesn’t feel quite right in terms of integrity that the budget of a church should be entirely on congregational giving,” Collins said.

Obviously, special-event revenue went out the window very early in the pandemic.

With the reduction in revenue, the church had to let an employee — its director of operations — go.

Collins doesn’t fault anyone for cutting back on giving to their church.

“I see that there are a lot of churches struggling, and it makes sense to me that if there are congregations that are entirely dependent on congregational giving … we’re in one of the greatest unemployment crises the nation has known … and if people are having to choose between paying rent, getting their prescription medication, feeding their kids, and giving to the church, I hope in God’s name they’re doing the first three first,” Collins said.

Its popular Community Christmas Candlelight service this year was canceled; Collins said the church consulted with an infectious-disease expert, who said singing is one of the riskier behaviors when it comes to spreading the disease.

The church will have an in-person Christmas Eve service, but will limit it to less than a fourth of the Dreka Theater’s capacity — around 75 — which should allow for adequate social distancing. Normally, Collective would have two well-attended services on that day.

Most of the music and readings will be prerecorded and shown as videos during the service.

“Even though Collective is very nontraditional typically, with Christmas Eve, it feels more traditional, with lessons and carols, because it’s the stuff that people come out for,” Collins said.

The church has also created a playlist of videos to go along with an exhibit of Advent-themed paintings by Scott Erickson, for the community to enjoy in a COVID-19-safe manner.

Collins acknowledges people will miss things like the Community Christmas Candlelight service.

“It’s almost a practice of our faith to love our neighbors well enough to know that they can’t help but sing,” he said. “People need that hope this year, and it would be irresponsible of us to get people together, to play music of hope, and expect them not to sing.”

“Unfortunately, the most Christian thing we can do is not gather,” Collins concluded.

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