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All Souls Episcopal Church

Palms left by the door of All Souls Episcopal Church in Stony Brook. Photo from All Souls Episcopal

Since the middle of March, houses of worship have had to find other ways to stay connected with their congregations during the COVID-19 pandemic. We asked local clergy members how alternative methods have been working and what is on the minds of their congregants.

Setauket United Methodist Church

The Rev. Steven Kim, of Setauket United Methodist Church, is just one pastor who is using modern technology. He said COVID-19 can make connectivity or interaction difficult.

“A church is not an exception,” he said. “Since the pandemic broke out, our ministry has been focused on helping the parishioners feel connected with their church family. Technology is a key player in pursuing this goal. It has enabled us to continue worshiping, keep meetings, continue our bible study and have prayer gatherings all online.”

Kim said the church is also trying to serve the community through prayer and other supportive ways. Church members have sent encouragement cards to medical crews, first responders and police officers in the community and delivered pizza to the medical crew at the intensive care unit at Stony Brook University Hospital. 

“The current crisis challenges us to deepen our understanding of a faith community which is rooted in our society,” Kim said.

Setauket Presbyterian Church

The Rev. Kate Jones Calone, interim pastor at Setauket Church, said the congregation at Setauket Presbyterian Church reflected on the theme of “wilderness” during the season of Lent.

“After the impact of the coronavirus became more real for us locally, our wrestling as a faith community with what it means to be in the “wilderness” obviously took on new meaning,” Jones Calone said. “We’ve been contemplating questions like: how do the various stories involving wilderness in scripture guide and challenge and sustain us during this time? Where are God and grace present in the wilderness? What does our church/community/world look like on the other side of a wilderness experience?”

Jones Calone said the experience reminds them that “the church is not a building but a community of people who share deep connection through their faith in a God of love.” Church members love one another and their neighbors by staying home, worshipping and meeting virtually, and comforting those who are sick, hurting, grieving and serving. The congregation also created an Emergency Assistance Fund to help those in need.

“This crisis has further exposed deep societal inequities around economic disparity, poverty, race and health care, and makes systemic transformation even more urgent,” she said.

All Souls Episcopal Church, Stony Brook

Daniel Kerr, a senior warden with All Souls Episcopal Church in Stony Brook, has been leading Sunday morning virtual prayers at 8 and 9:30 a.m. on the church’s website. He said All Souls also held virtual Good Friday, Easter Vigils and Easter morning services. The live, interactive, virtual services have featured the few who can participate taking turns reading from the scripture and leading the prayers.

“Believe it or not, we have had more folks attending the virtual services than we normally get on Sundays in ‘normal times,’” Kerr said.

He added that many who usually attend the church’s concerts, poetry readings and Shamanic Drumming events have also been tuning in to the virtual services, as well as people from New Hampshire, Florida and the Carolinas.

On Palm Sunday, he said the palms normally distributed at the Mass were left on the church’s porch with a sign encouraging people to take them. Kerr said all of the palms were taken by the following Tuesday morning.

Kerr added that at the end of the services, participants are asked to share their reflections on how they are doing during this time.

“Quite often they say these services have helped them feel connected to the extended All Souls community and less isolated and alone in their homes during social distancing,” Kerr said.

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook

Linda Anderson, a minister affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook, who also works with the South Nassau Unitarian Universalist congregation, said during this time she has needed to find new ways to serve congregants. In addition to calling, texting and sending emails to members, worship services as well as other meetings have been made available online.

Anderson said many have lost people in their lives, or fear they will, and have thought about their own deaths. 

“I hear the sadness that death brings,” she said. “The stress of grief affects our bodies in that we might feel more tired, have chest pains, upset stomachs, headaches. The stress of grief can make it hard for us to focus or make decisions. Our emotions can be all over the place, ranging from numbness to anger, from sorrow to relief.”

For those who fear their own deaths, she said it’s important to talk about their lives such as what they are proud of, what regrets they may have, what they think their legacy is and more. 

“It is a relief for folks to talk about these things out loud because they sure are thinking about them,” she said.

She said while the past holiday season had its challenges, the biblical story she found to be most relevant to congregants was that of the Israelites wandering in the desert.

“It feels like we too wander in the desert of COVID-19, uncertain of what will come next but holding onto a faith that we will indeed emerge from this,” Anderson said.

Trinity Lutheran Church, Rocky Point

The Rev. Peter Boehringer of Trinity Lutheran Church said the house of worship has used various online platforms for Sunday school, confirmation classes, First Communion, committee meetings and more. The church’s worship services are recorded and broadcasted on Facebook and YouTube.

He said the congregants see “the virus as something that falls within the realm of our interaction with nature.”

“Where we see God working is in the incredible compassion, empathy and commitment of people who have responded to the great challenges of this contagion with love,” he said. “If one takes the Easter message seriously, the idea that God is somehow punishing us, or the world, is negated. Our Lord does not promise that we will never be ill, or escape all disaster, etc., what is promised is the presence of the Holy Spirit in these things, that we may endure them and be a blessing to those around us.”

Village Chabad, East Setauket

Rabbit Motti Grossbaum said celebrating Passover this week was different than in the past.

“The question we ask at our Seder tables, ‘Why is this night different than all other nights?’ is ringing especially true at the present time,” he said. “We are doing our best to help the local community observe the holiday to the best degree possible as there is no reason we should Passover, Passover. Unfortunately as a Jewish people, we have been through challenges in our history, and the dedication that our ancestors had to our traditions and our heritage serves an inspiration to us during these challenging times to observe our faith despite the challenges. And when we do, we see that our connection to God and our faith gives us the hope we need to carry us through.”

Like other houses of worship, Village Chabad is using technology for services, education and counseling to members of all ages. Due to the pandemic, the rabbis have had to use technology to visit the sick and help families grieve virtually.

The rabbi had some words of hope. 

“While we cannot attempt to explain the reasoning for suffering and for COVID-19, we could attempt to find glimmers of hope and lessons of inspiration from our current world,” he said. “One obvious one is this. The world at large is currently united with one single focus. Crossing geographic divides, languages, cultures, races and even political differences, the world is currently united with one singular concern, goal and prayer. We are seeing how we are all responsible for each other and only together, will we bring an end to this. This is reminding us to set aside our differences and find the common humanity in every single human being on our planet. Every one of us are intrinsically good and together we will also reveal the intrinsic goodness of our world.”

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By Daniel Kerr

Runners and walkers gathered in front of All Souls Episcopal Church for the 11th annual Soles for All Souls 5K Race/2K Walk Sept. 29 as parishioners Annatje Clark and Veronique Velazquez sang the national anthem.

Nine-year-old Hudson Gaeta from Fort Salonga won the gold medal for the 13 and under group, and Stony Brook resident John Barker won the gold for the 80+ group. Stony Brook University alumnus Darian Sorouri set a new overall record time of 16 minutes, 41 seconds and Jessica Petrina of Selden set a new overall female time of 20:42.

Centereach resident Laura Shann won the Bravest Costume award for her multicolored running tutu, and Suffolk County Poet Laureate Barbara Southard led the Live Poets Society walkers. Several families fielded teams of multiple generations and fitness levels for this annual celebration. Local band DownPort provided live music during registration and the Olympic-style awards ceremony.  Expert pre- and postrace stretching was provided by Dr. Kiley Holmes from PhysioRoam.

All funds raised will be dedicated to adding a bathroom to the historic chapel and making the church and its outreach activities (concerts, poetry readings, dialing visitation, etc.) accessible to all.

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Stony Brook residents Don Estes and Dan Kerr will lead a morning interdenominational prayer service at All Souls Episcopal Church in Stony Brook beginning Jan. 30. Photo from Dan Kerr

Through prayer, a Stony Brook church is connecting further with the surrounding community.

The doors of All Souls Episcopal Church on Main Street are always open for all to pray or to enjoy activities such as its Saturdays at Six concerts, Second Saturdays poetry readings and Shamanic Drumming events. Beginning Jan. 30, the church will offer a weekly interdenominational morning prayer service led by Stony Brook residents Dan Kerr and Don Estes.

“If you start your day with a reading from Scripture, and a little reflection on Scripture, whether its Old Testament or New Testament, it gives you a framework that helps you realize that there’s a bigger picture.”

— Dan Kerr

Kerr, a church volunteer at All Souls, said he starts every day with structured prayer time and believes the new service is a natural progression to what the church has been doing. The congregation connects with approximately 500 people from the community through its events, he said, and many have asked for something such as the new morning service.

“The vision of this is that we have a relationship with all these 500 people, but we’ve never invited those 500 people to come and pray with us,” Kerr said.

He said the prayers and readings they will use at the interdenominational service are ones that all Christians will recognize and all religions can appreciate. Kerr said both he and Estes believe “any day that begins with prayer is likely to be a good day.”

“If you start your day with a reading from Scripture, and a little reflection on Scripture, whether its Old Testament or New Testament, it gives you a framework that helps you realize that there’s a bigger picture,” Kerr said.

Estes, a Methodist who attends Stony Brook Community Church at 216 Christian Ave. and former commodore of Stony Brook Yacht Club, said he was looking for a morning prayer service for a while, so when Kerr brought up the idea, he said he would be happy to help. Estes said starting the day with prayer every day had helped him through difficult times, especially when his wife Judy was battling Alzheimer’s disease before her passing last year.

A retired TWA pilot, Estes said he’s also been inspired by his travels around the world that allowed him to witness others’ prayer practices and his wife’s spirituality. He thinks a prayer group such as the All Souls one helps people figure out how they should be and what the day should be like for them.

“A prayer in the morning gets you started in the right direction for the day,” Estes said.

“It’s been a big help to me to meet the challenges of the day,” he said.

“In the morning, our minds tend to be the most clear and free from problems.”

— Tom Manuel

Tom Manuel, president and founder of The Jazz Loft, was pleased to hear the service would be offered.

“The secret of a close relationship with our God is to prioritize our first time each morning in prayer,” Manuel said. “In the morning, our minds tend to be the most clear and free from problems. Setting our course and focus on God is a great way to commit the day ahead to him.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said she commended Kerr and Estes for joining the community together with prayer.

“This early morning service reminds me of my grandmother who attended Mass every morning,” Cartright said. “Her devotion to starting every day with prayer has had a great positive impact on my faith. Prayer has always been such an important part of my personal and family life. It helps to keep me grounded, and it helps to keep me connected to God. Our faith communities are stronger when we can come together and pray together. Faith is one of the important ties that bind us together.”

The interdenominational morning prayer service will be held every Wednesday beginning Jan. 30 at 7 a.m. The service will run approximately 30 minutes, according to Kerr, and people of all faiths and traditions are welcome to attend. For more information, call 631-655-7798. All Souls Episcopal Church is located at 61 Main St., Stony Brook.

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All Souls Episcopal Church in Stony Brook will host a poetry reading April 14. Photo from All Souls Episcopal Church

Two familiar faces in the Three Village area are ready to share their creative sides with their fellow residents.

Former Suffolk County Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher and Emma S. Clark Memorial Library’s librarian Carolyn Emerson will be the featured poets at All Souls Episcopal Church’s Second Saturdays Poetry Reading April 14 in Stony Brook.

Former Suffolk County Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher is one of the featured poet readers at the Second Saturdays Poetry Reading at All Souls Episcopal Church in Stony Brook April 14. Photo from All Souls Episcopal Church

While politics and poetry may seem part of two different worlds, Viloria-Fisher said she believes reading fiction of any kind helps a person develop empathy, something she feels is essential for an elected official to have.

“Literature is an avenue to receive and to give, and that’s what art does,” she said. “It expresses what you’re feeling, and I think that you’re able to express that when you have empathy for the feelings of others.”

Viloria-Fisher served six full terms as Suffolk County legislator and was deputy presiding officer for six years. She currently is campaigning to be on the ticket for the Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District. Before embarking on a political career, she taught English and Spanish in local schools, including Advanced Placement Spanish in the Three Village Central School District. She later went on to become chair of the district’s foreign language department.

Despite two busy careers, she said poetry has been part of her life for as long as she can remember, writing for herself and special events.

“I love to capture moments and feeling in poetry,” Viloria-Fisher said, adding that she prefers her poems to rhyme, and she feels imagery, metaphors, cadence and similes are important in the genre.

The former legislator said she hopes attendees at the April 14 reading will appreciate seeing a different side of her.

“I think people see me a little bit more in terms of social justice and science, and I want them to see the artist in me as well,” she said.

For Emerson, her job allows her to show a bit more creativity on a regular basis, she said. She is involved with poetry readings, literary programs and writing workshops at the library. The librarian said she’s a lifelong lover of literature and has been writing poetry since fifth grade.

“I love the compact form of poetry,” Emerson said. “My parents were members of a poetry group in Miami, which I occasionally attended, and my father sometimes recited lines of poetry at the dinner table, so I grew up having a lot of exposure to poetry.”

Emerson, who has been a featured reader at Suffolk County Community College, said her poetry tends to be nature oriented.

Librarian Carolyn Emerson is one of the featured poet readers at the Second Saturdays Poetry Reading at All Souls Episcopal Church in Stony Brook April 14. Photo from All Souls Episcopal Church

“I like to observe nature, and I feel that I can use it as a metaphor,” she said.

The librarian’s poems have appeared in several publications, including Long Island Quarterly and Long Island Botanical Society Newsletter. Emerson is the founder of the Euterpe Poetry Group, and in 2007, she was a semifinalist for The Paumanok Poetry Award. She is currently working on a manuscript about her experiences searching for her birth mother.

The librarian said she has attended the Second Saturdays Poetry Readings at the church in the past and has read a few of her pieces during the open reading portion.

“It’s a wonderful space for poetry,” Emerson said. “It’s intimate and just a lovely, serene space to listen to poetry.”

All Souls Episcopal Church is located at 61 Main St., Stony Brook. The Second Saturdays Poetry Reading will be held Saturday, April 14, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is hosted by Suffolk County Poet Laureate Gladys Henderson. An open reading will follow the intermission, and all are welcome to read their own work or that of another. For more details, call 631-655-7798.

On Oct. 1 more than 150 runners and walkers took to the streets of Stony Brook to participate in the Soles for All Souls 5K Run/2K Walk. Organized by All Souls Episcopal Church in Stony Brook, the morning included live entertainment by local band Down Port, pre-race stretches led by Inspired of Port Jefferson, raffles and a ceremony where awards were presented by age group. Brendan Roller of Melville was the first to cross the finishing line in 18 minutes, 46 seconds, and East Setauket’s Leana Wiebelt was the first female to complete the race in a time of 20:39. East Setauket resident John Barker, the only participant in the 80 and older category, finished the race in 48:20 .

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Episcopal Church Runners prepare for last year’s Soles for All Souls race. Photo from All Souls

Members of a local congregation will be pounding the pavement Oct. 1 to raise funds for their historic church, one that was designed by renowned architect Stanford White in 1889.

All Souls Episcopal Church’s 90 members are inviting runners and walkers of all ages and denominations to join them as they participate in the 9th annual Soles for All Souls 5K Race/2K Walk. Dan Kerr, race and church membership chairperson, said it’s the second year he is heading up the event. His wife Susan Kerr and friend Mary Ellen Doris started the race after the late priest in charge, Mother Ann Plummer, asked members, “Why don’t you do something to get the community more active.”

Dan Kerr congratulates his wife Susan on her win during last year’s race. Photo from All Souls

Susan Kerr, the church’s head of fundraising, said Doris suggested the race, but she herself was skeptical at first if the church committee could pull it off. However, Doris had experience with running and was confident that it would be a success, and the first year they attracted approximately 100 runners.

The two organized the race together every year until Doris moved to South Carolina.  Kerr continued to chair the race until her job as a physical therapy assistant required her to work more hours. That’s when she passed the baton to her husband, and he stepped in to head up the race.

Relieved of her organizational duties, Kerr said last year at 62 years old she competed in her first race and came in first in her division in Soles for All Souls. She said as a former power walker, who began her quest to run by taking it one mailbox at a time, she believes anyone can take up running.

“Enjoy the process and compete only against yourself,” she said.

Kerr said her husband has been doing a great job organizing the race these last two years. She said he is fastidious in his organization and has taken the event to the next level and brought in more sponsors.

“He really knows how to get out there and get sponsors, advertising on the back of shirts,” she said.

Dan Kerr said approximately 120 serious and casual runners and walkers participated in last year’s race. He said his wife and Doris carefully planned the route before the first race in 2009 wanting to make sure it was exactly five kilometers and both challenging and scenic.

“The people who run it tend to be people who are serious runners,” he said. “They run in a lot of races, and they always tell us our race, although it’s small, is one of the best planned and has one of the most beautiful routes, especially when they come to the end when they come down Sand Street on the last leg and they get to run along the harbor.”

Episcopal Church
Runners prepare for last year’s Soles for All Souls race. Photo from All Souls

The church’s senior warden Steven Velazquez has run in the race for five years along with his daughter Veronique, while his wife Suzanne helps at the event. He said the fundraiser brings the members of the church together as they promote and work on it, and Dan has been doing a phenomenal job.

“It connects our small church together, it binds us together,” Velazquez said.

He said many children run in the race, and now that they’re getting older, keeping up with them is becoming more challenging. While he used to run on a regular basis and participate in Northport’s Great Cow Harbor 10K Race, he broke his leg a few years ago and hasn’t been able to run as much in recent years.

“I’m not the greatest runner but I’m happy to complete it,” he said.

The race begins at 9 a.m. Oct. 1 rain or shine. To register, go to www.active.com and search for Soles for All Souls. Fee is $25 for adults and $10 for children under 18 before Sept. 24 and $30 for adults and $15 for children afterward and on the day of the race. The day will include pre-race stretching led by Inspired of Port Jefferson, and the band Down Port will perform after the race. Nonperishable food items and toiletries will be collected for the food pantry at St. Cuthbert’s Church in Selden.

All Souls Episcopal Church is opened every day to visitors and located at 61 Main St., Stony Brook.

Three Village Chamber Players Natalie Kress, Anna Tsukervanik, Philip Carter and Alison Rowe perform. Photo by Donna Newman

Joni Mitchell once said, “I see music as fluid architecture.” The All Souls Episcopal Church in Stony Brook Village gives people an opportunity to revel in both at once.

The Saturdays at Six program offers classical music in concert the third Saturday of each month at 6 p.m.

On a recent Saturday the musicians were members of the Three Village Chamber Players, a group of Stony Brook graduate students who have been performing there over the past year.

Violinist Leah Caravello opens the show. Photo by Donna Newman
Violinist Leah Caravello opens the show. Photo by Donna Newman

“Our mission is to enrich our community through artistic excellence, providing musical performances of the highest caliber free to the public,” reads the statement on the group’s Facebook page.

For its part, the church shares the Players’ mission of serving the community.   

“The church’s doors are open every day so people can enter for prayer or reflection,” said Welcoming Chairman Daniel Kerr, while introducing the concert. Further, the church displays an active commitment to the arts with its Saturday programs that offer music, meditation and poetry on a regular basis, he said.

This program included Mozart’s String Quartet No. 19 in C major — nicknamed “Dissonance” — and, after an intermission, Ravel’s String Quartet in F major. Performers included the group’s director Natalie Kress, Anna Tsukervanik, Philip Carter (violins) and Alison Rowe (cello).

As an added treat, one of Kress’ violin students, five-year-old Leah Caravello, played a short piece.

The next Saturdays at Six concert will take place Nov. 19, when the members of the Anima Brass Quintet will perform.

Although the concert is free and open to all, a nonperishable food item donation is requested, and a “performer’s appreciation donation basket” is available, should people wish to contribute.