On Sunday, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, in conjunction with other Christian denominations from the Island community, held a Pentecost Day Car Parade to commemorate the Pentecost season in the Christian faith. Pentecost comes 50 days after Easter Sunday, and serves as the beginning of the longest liturgical season in the Christian calendar, and is the day when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles. In the Christian canon, Pentecost also is the day that Moses was presented with the 10 Commandments.
The parade started at the Park and Ride in Edgartown, and traveled to the Old Whaling Church on Main Street. The Rev. Chip Seadale, alongside the Rev. Steven Harding of Grace Church in Vineyard Haven, and the Rev. Hyuk Seonwoo from Trinity Methodist Church in Oak Bluffs, stood in front of the Whaling Church to bless those who rode by. In accordance with social distancing regulations, the leaders asked all attendees to remain in their cars to receive the blessing.
Seadale shared that as the facilitator for the Island Clergy Association, he has relationships with many other faith leaders on the Island. In preparation for Sunday, he reached out to other clergy in an effort to join together as an Island-wide faith community.
Poliana Bellan Wilson, parish life and social media coordinator at St. Andrew’s, came up with this innovative idea to continue faithful celebration in the midst of COVID-19 disruptions. Pentecost, in particular, is a season that stresses the importance of communal unity.
“It was just out of the blue, as if I had dreamed of the idea,” said Bellan Wilson. “I think this is much more special in terms of having all the people bringing their faith out, and being together as different faith communities. Otherwise, people would be inside of their church, having their service, and going back home.”
Seadale held a jug of holy water and, as each parishioner drove by the Whaling Church, he lightly splashed them with the water and delivered a blessing. About 30 cars drove by, led by an Edgartown Police car. Many parishioners had their cars adorned with red ribbons, balloons, and signs sharing messages of faith. The faith leaders called out blessings to cars as they drove by. The line of cars was followed by a slew of police vehicles from West Tisbury, Chilmark, Aquinnah, Dukes County, and Edgartown.
Since the onset of COVID-19, St. Andrew’s has not been able to hold in-person services.
Coronavirus has forced new innovations for church practice in the time of the pandemic. “You cannot come to church, but church can come to you,” said Bellan Wilson. Seadale and other faith leaders have taken to YouTube. St. Andrew’s holds Zoom chat coffee hours every other Sunday, Bible studies, and YouTube live streams of regular church service every week. Many church leaders are experimenting with various forms of online engagement in order to stay connected with parishioners. “It’s a wonderful thing,” said Seadale. “The thing, obviously, that we do lack is the personal connection.”
“My currency is in relationships, and Zoom doesn’t cut it. I haven’t seen my parishioners in two and a half months,” said Seadale. “It’s a special day in our calendar, so we try to play it up a little bit.”
“God bless our world,” Seadale called out as the line of cars ended. “And God bless our drone,” he said, as he splashed holy water skyward to a drone flying overhead.