This upcoming Tuesday is Primary Day in our state – elections are being held throughout the Commonwealth. This year we also celebrate the 100th anniversary of women securing the right to vote.
A few years back, I was in Nashville, TN and visited Centennial Park, a large urban park located across from the campus of Vanderbilt University. It was the site of the 1897 Centennial Exposition. On the grounds is a replica of the Parthenon, built to honor Nashville’s status as “The Athens of the South.” In front of the Parthenon is a small lake with a nice walkway including a monument by Alan LaQuire featuring depictions of Carrie Chapman Catt, Anne Dallas Dudley, Abbey Crawford Milton, Juno Frankie Pierce, and Sue Shelton White, local activists for women’s suffrage. What a great reminder of the brave women who fought for the right to vote. The statue depicts their love for our country and bravery in standing up for what is right and just. This Tuesday, let’s think of their sacrifices, their love for our country, and let’s vote.
I received a memorandum from the Archdiocese’s legal counsel reminding us that clergy need to remain non-partisan and resist promoting a political candidate. The IRS is clear that charities, such as our church, need to steer clear of political promotion or risk losing tax-exempt status. As such, we do not allow any political signs on the property, and the pulpit will continue to be used for theology rather than politics. I am a registered voter in Arlington, and will vote along with my parents that Tuesday.
I want to thank everyone for helping us keep our church safe by social-distancing and respecting the restrictions on seating. On my vacation to Hudson, NY, I visited the local church and noticed that they chained off their pews with copper wire and plastic chains. That day, I ordered these materials from Amazon and have installed them on our benches. I am also working to make smaller, laminated signs for the pews. In late September we will have the rugs cleaned and at that time will take up the tape and signs from the carpet, and will reposition new arrows and decals. Given that we have gotten a routine down, I will see if we can replace with smaller signs and markings. I am doing this because I want the Church to look nicer, perhaps softer, and to avoid any shading to the new carpet. The new chains will also offer us the ability to rotate the seating every few months in order that we might not show greater wear on particular rows.
With respEct to this issue with the pews: we have had problems at some funerals when family members remove the tape or chains in order to be seated directly in back of other family members. Unfortunately the state and archdiocesan regulations do not permit this, so I have asked all funeral directors to seat everyone who attends one of our funerals. For a big funeral we will need to direct overflow into the chapel, where we are able to project the Mass on the wall along with the audio. Seating in the Chapel is on an every-third-bench basis. I have told the funeral directors that I will not start a funeral unless everyone is appropriately distanced. I know this may seem harsh, but it is in everyone’s best interest, as both the state and archdiocese could tell me to cease celebrating Mass in the Church. A few months ago, two churches were closed for a two-week period because someone attended church while they were sick. I want to avoid a closure, so let’s continue to observe the safety protocols.
We will begin taking temperature checks at each door when flu season begins. Anyone with a fever of 100.4˚ or higher, will not be allowed in the Church. If someone refuses to have their temperature taken they will not be allowed to attend.
Please – if you’re not feeling well, or even think you might be sick, stay home and watch our livestream. Please understand that this is not to be harsh but to protect everyone from this virus.
Fr. John F. Carmichael, Pastor