Coronavirus won't close the church
April 10, 2020
Veronica Dagher for the WSJ
On a typical Sunday morning, Rev. Steven Paulikas stands on the front steps of the Brooklyn church he has been leading for almost nine years, shaking hands and hugging congregants.
In the age of coronavirus, however, this practice—like many others—has been turned inside out.
Recently, the 41-year-old rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church has stood alone on those steps, his gaze occupied by the crisis enveloping New York City. A refrigerated white semi-truck serving as a temporary morgue has been set up across the street by neighboring NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital.
“The morgue truck is the daily shadow of death cast on to the church,” Father Paulikas said, echoing the sentiments of Psalm 23. He frequently prays for the deceased, their loved ones and the health-care workers serving on the front lines, some of whom are members of his parish. Those prayers are often said as sirens blare in the background.
On Sunday, Father Paulikas will celebrate Easter at the end of an unusual Holy Week. The faithful are sheltering in place, so he plans to preside over Mass in an empty church. The liturgy and sermon will be delivered into the lens of an iPhone 11 mounted on a tripod that assistant priest Rev. Spencer Cantrell borrowed from his roommate.
Father Paulikas and Father Cantrell now routinely follow up their online services by walking to the church’s garden. There, sitting 6 feet apart and wearing masks, they are available to speak with anyone who wants prayer or conversation at a safe distance.
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