Resilience, strength, and faith. That’s what people go to when they think about their local church.
This was especially so for what now feels to some to have been an everlasting dark time for the Coronavirus pandemic. Collectively, the community can see the light at the year-long tunnel.
For the Sacred Heart Church in Manchester, that idea was about collectively empowering those in the community with the notion that although it was a difficult time – difficulty is surpassed together. The church was seen as a light for many during these dark times, providing a space to find faith and resilience.
I had the opportunity of sitting with Father Paul Flammia to talk about what Sacred Heart did to benefit the community during Covid.
In order to facilitate worship, the churches of Saint John the Baptist in Essex and Sacred Heart Church in Manchester were combined into one. This integration was officially merged on July 1. This was derived from the idea of the Manchester-Essex school system which has been an integrated school system between the two towns for decades.
The new name of this parish is, “The Visitation Parish.” Taken from the story on the Bible of the same name, it reinforces the concept of coming together, in both happy and hard times.
During COVID-19, Scared Heart was shuttered, like all churches. But over time, the church was able to resume slowly but surely. In April, 202, small groups were able to come into the church, with seating reserved online due to contact tracing. Groups gradually became larger, reaching a higher percentage of capacity each time.
Due to the continuous cleaning and maintenance of the Sacred Heart Church, Father Paul reports that there were no cases of the coronavirus coming directly from the Sacred Heart Church.
In more recent months, The Council of Aging posed an idea: vaccination clinics in the Sacred Heart Church. At the time, journeying to vaccine clinics far away—or worse yet, across the state—offer a nearby place for locals to safely get vaccinated. It was a big success. There were 20 different vaccination clinics that took place overall, from February until the very last clinic, which took place early in the summer for those age 12 and older.
Additionally, the Montessori Early Childhood School was able to stay open for infants to age five by adhering to the protocols and keeping everyone safe. The school kept running, facilitating order and some normalcy for parents, many of whom had additional kids at home due to the stay-in-home-order.
Stories of courage, faith, strength, and resilience encapsulate the hard and troubling times that impacted everyone one way or another during these times. But with helping hands such as integration of churches, resume of service, vaccination clinics and open daycare -- things are facilitated. Collectively through the strength of those around, the community could find light and hope at the end of a dark tunnel.