No New Year’s Eve Services At Pilsen Church — Too Dangerous, Pastor Says

(CBS) — Chicago’s dangerous streets are changing the way some people plan to bring in the New Year.

As CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports, church services are being moved up in an attempt to escape the violence.

The doors of New Life Pilsen church are locked for the weekend. There will be no New Year’s Eve worship service on Saturday, Dec 31.

“Violence has been crazy this year,” explains Pastor Robert Belfort.

New Life was touched by that violence. Of the more than 750 shot and killed this year, nine teenagers from the church’s community program were among those murdered.

So, too, was New Life member Michael Fernandez.

“Innocent victim, great kid. Never was in gangs,” Belfort says.

His solution to concerns about this year’s violence: The traditional midnight service to bring in the new year was Thursday night. It was over by 9 p.m.

Belfort got no complaints from his small congregation. That’s because parishioners like Gladys Villahan remember last year’s 15-minute ride home, which included gunshots.

Yes, she’ll miss the traditional midnight service on New Year’s Eve. But she adds: “It’s just safer to be indoors.”

Parishioners may have seen the last of New Year’s eve services at New Life.

This year’s regular Sunday services are also cancelled since everyone worshipped earlier this week.

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