Churches across the Diocese mark nearly 400,000 lives lost to COVID-19

Photo above: A candlelight vigil hosted by St. Paul’s Church in downtown Syracuse. Photo courtesy DJ Iglesrud. 

On the eve of Inauguration Day, people across the United States joined together at 5:30 p.m. to remember nearly 400,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19. Many churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York joined in the commemoration with online prayer services, outdoor vigils, and the tolling of bells.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Syracuse hosted a socially-distanced outdoor candlelight vigil January 19th. Photo by DJ Iglesrud.

Outside St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Syracuse, members and neighbors gathered on the church lawn for a brief prayer service by candlelight, ringing handbells. “We chose to participate as a prayerful response to a pandemic that has touched every person who has lost a loved one to COVID, isolated, or worn a mask,” said St. Alban’s rector the Rev. Julie Calhoun-Bryant. “We saw it as a way to reach out to our neighbors in these troubled times.” St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Syracuse also hosted an outdoor prayer vigil.

St. James’ Episcopal Church in Skaneateles offered an all-day virtual prayer vigil on January 19, 2021.

St. James’ Episcopal Church in Skaneateles hosted an all-day virtual prayer vigil January 19th “for our nation and a peaceful transfer of power,” said the Rev. Becky Coerper, rector of St. James’. The parish also hosted a meditative prayer service online at 6:00 p.m. and tolled their steeple bell at 5:30 p.m., joining churches around the Diocese and around the country ringing bells at that time.

In Seneca Falls, the Rev. Brad Benson, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, invited the local Presbyterian and Methodist churches to join in the commemoration. The three churches tolled their bells 400 times, once for every thousand lives lost to COVID-19. “It was emotionally taxing to realize that each bell ring represented one thousand deaths,” said Benson. “Incredibly sad.”

The people and neighbors of St. James’ Episcopal Church in Clinton lit candles in their homes as the church’s bells rang out. “We hope to share God’s love and caring throughout our community,” church leaders said in a statement. A parish member who is a front-line worker added, “this touches my heart more than any of you can imagine or I can express.”

In their bell-ringing, Trinity Episcopal Church in Fayetteville marked dear friends of the congregation among the lives lost to COVID-19. “May our prayers, whatever type, form, or tradition, honor their memory and bless us in remembering them,” read a statement on the church’s Facebook page. The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Trumansburg also rang their churchbells.

In Binghamton, Christ Episcopal Church tolled their bells 209 times for each of the 209 people who have died in Broome County as a result of COVID-19. The Rev. Elizabeth Ewing, rector, led a virtual prayer service featuring a prayer written by a parishioner. “We feel the deaths need to be noted,” she said. “We hope our action shows the community how much we value all people, how real the COVID-19 pandemic is, and our commitment to healing and hope.”

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