Setauket and Stony Brook, NY, under the COVID-19 pandemic.
I woke up this morning with some regret that I had not made more of an effort to travel into NYC to photograph the absence of an Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue, but with the COVID-19 situation I know it was the right thing to do for my family. Instead I decided to make a mid-day photographic pilgrimage to various churches around Setauket and Stony Brook, New York. The mandated lockdown rendered this year’s celebration of the resurrection void of people who would normally have gathered in these houses of worship on this day, but the beauty of lives, present and past, accompanied me at each stop.
“I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence, Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt, Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd, Just as any of you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d.” Walt Whitman – Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
Ringing of the noon bells at Caroline Church of Brookhaven. Built in 1729.
Setauket Presbyterian Church and Burial Ground. Built in 1812.
An earlier presbyterian church existed on the village green from where the above photo is taken. That church burnt down after it was struck by lightening. The burial grounds to the right include the remains of its earliest pastor (1658 – 1685), the Rev. Nathaniel Brewster, born in Bristol, England c. 1622, he died in Setauket on December 18, 1690. During the Revolutionary War the church grounds were the site of a Loyalist fortification. The burial grounds are also the final resting place of Abraham Woodhull, one of the leaders of the American Revolutionary War’s Culper Spy Ring. It is believed that the Culper Spy Ring achieved more than any other American or British intelligence network during the war.
All Souls Episcopal Church, Stony Brook. Built in 1889. Designed by Stanford White.
In the 1980’s I worked at the New-York Historical Society as a research assistant in the department that housed a large collection of McKim, Mead and White’s architectural drawings and documents. I have visited many of the buildings they designed but at the time I could not foresee that decades later I would live in this community, near this sweet building created for community gathering and spiritual reflection. The window behind the alter, visible in the photo with my reflection, represents the ideal of Caritas (Charity), a wealthy woman giving a coin to a beggar. The Episcopal Church is currently inviting all to join in cultivating a “Habit of Grace.”
Holy Cross Russian Orthodox Monastery
The Monastery for the Holy Cross Church follows the Russian Orthodox tradition using the Julian calendar as opposed to the Gregorian calendar used by the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. Therefore this Setauket church will celebrate Easter next Sunday, April 19th.
This church was the last stop on my pilgrimage. By this time the sky had become partly cloudy but as I looked up to photograph the church’s golden dome, the sun broke through for just a moment, allowing me to capture it as an eye in the sky.
I walked away from the steps of the Russian church feeling grateful for where I was, for the time I took to discard regret, for what I have in my life, for lives present and past that inspire me, for travels I’ve made, from my birth in Ecuador, to this beautiful community on Long Island, and every place in between. Everything has been a lesson that has brought me to the physical and spiritual place I am now.
As I approached my car in the driveway between the church and the Setauket Elementary School I found the golden shell of another non-native being, a Grove Snail (Cepaea nemoralis) glowing brightly on the gravel. I had to smile over what I was seeing, and how it echoed the last image I had captured with my camera.
…Just as any of you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d…
COVID-19 is a dark cloud above the entire world at this time; but time, like clouds and rivers, flows and refreshes. This too will pass and we will gather in celebratory crowds again.