YARDLEY BOROUGH >> St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Yardley Borough - like many other churches across the nation - is adjusting to life in this new world of COVID-19 by moving it services and events online.
Its staff and parishioners have put together an impressive schedule of weekly events using a number of online tools, including video conferencing and FaceBook Live, all in an effort to connect people in a time of isolation.
“The church is the people of God. Buildings are closed, but the community is still here for each other and for all of our neighbors,” said Pastor Hillary Greer. “We’ve just switched online.”
The church has scheduled at least one event a day, streaming everything from Yoga classes and live concerts to poetry shares, healing prayer services, its weekly Eucharists and even a performance of King Lear, which was written during the plague.
“We’re coming together and saying that at a time when people are so isolated and trying to find community, we can come together as a community and offer ways for people - whatever they believe - to connect through us,” said Greer. “We really believe that it’s our spirituality, community and the arts that are going to get us through this,” she said.
For some, there has been a learning curb, Greer noted. “People have needed help connecting online so we’ve focused on teaching,” said Greer. “And people are learning very quickly,” she said, adding that there’s a lot of grace with how people are connecting now. “People are so hungry to connect with each other that we’re willing to sit through someone learning how to use their microphone and help them.”
As a result, their number of views have gone up, from a few hundred the first Sunday to around 1,000 the second Sunday. And a recent harp concert drew 755 views.
“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s working really beautifully,” said Greer.
“Our emphasis is trying to put things out there for people who are looking for resources and ways to connect to each other during this time,” she said. “We want them to know that nobody’s alone, that we still have profound and meaningful ways to connect with each other and that the arts, the spirit and the love of each is what’s going to get us through.”
Through all the challenges presented by social distancing and the virus, Greer said the church’s staff has risen to the task, from scrubbing down the church, parish house and offices, to planning online concerts and answering a deluge of emails. “They have been incredible,” she said.
“And our parishioners have stepped up, offering to lead and organize many of our online programs,” said Greer. “We have such a wealth of people and talents.”
In addition, every week the church is holding a weekly soup drive for the hungry and homebound in the area. Soup Drop-off takes place on Mondays between 8 and 9 am.
“Last week, we collected 721 soups for the homebound and hungry in our area! THANK YOU!,” said Greer. “As a result, we will be collecting soups every Monday morning in the St. Andrew’s parking lot from 8 and 9 am. Volunteers will then deliver the soups to Caring for Friends.”
Containers are available in the sewing house (the small, greenish building next to the church office) at any time. For those who can’t get to the church, containers can be delivered to your house by calling and arranging a time.
“Times like this are an invitation for us to deepen our spiritual practice and to learn about different ways we can practice our spirituality, whether that’s meditation, different forms of prayer or whether it’s music,” said Greer. “It’s a chance for people to tune into what feeds their soul.”
Looking ahead to Holy Week and Easter, Pastor Greer said plans are in the works for live streaming Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services. Check the church website for times and links.
A very special Easter Vigil also is planned for Saturday, April 11 beginning at 8 pm.
“We will be remotely streaming from the COVID-19 ward at Abington Hospital where one of the deacons in the church is a nurse,” said Greer. “He is going to be singing, ‘Our Exalted,’ which will be the high point of the service. He’s going to be doing that in his scrubs from the COVID ward.”
On Easter Sunday, a live stream service is tentatively planned for 9 am. Healthcare workers will participate in the readings and deacon Matt Simpson will be chanting “The Exalted.”
At deadline, the Bishop of the church was exploring the possibility of a joint service across the diocese, which could impact the time of the local service. Check the St. Andrew’s website for the latest details.
“What’s strange this year is that we’re celebrating Easter when our country is living Lent,” said Greer. “It’s a reminder to all of us that Easter is coming. And that’s the celebration. Whatever we’re experiencing today isn’t the last word.”
For the weekly schedule of events and links, visit standrews-yardley.org.