MARBLEHEAD – Grace Community Church, which is nestled among the town’s tightly packed downtown on Pleasant Street, has parking for four cars, not nearly enough for an outdoor Christmas Eve celebration for 100 of its faithful during the pandemic.
So, when Temple Emanu-El Rabbi David Meyer heard during a recent Zoom meeting of the Marblehead Ministerial Association that the church’s pastor, the Rev. Eric Dokken, needed a space big enough to hold the outdoor service, Meyer did not hesitate to offer the parking lot of the temple at 393 Atlantic Ave. Meyer said he gave the church permission to string lights in the temple’s evergreen trees.
“When I heard Reverend Dokken mention that the church was having difficulty finding an appropriate space for their drive-in Christmas Eve service, I was delighted to offer our temple’s lot for them to use,” Meyer said in an email. “It’s an expression of communal solidarity, and of how we are all trying to support one another, especially during these challenging times. I know that all of our Marblehead faith communities are doing our best to be responsive and present for one another. It is an honor to host their holy night of worship.”
There has been far less activity at the temple due to safety precautions due to the pandemic. The building has been closed for in-person worship services and has been streaming them on Facebook Live, or offering Torah Study or other activities on Zoom. Meanwhile, the religious school has been held with a mix of in-person and online learning.
In recent weeks, the synagogue has played a wider role in town, as a polling location for social-distancing voting during the Nov. 3 election, and as a site for free COVID-19 testing for residents.
Dokken, who has been pastor of the downtown church since 2013, said the church has parking for exactly four cars and the rest is on-street parking. It’s an easy walk to the church in the downtown, but a hindrance for those coming from elsewhere who need to find parking.
The church has about 50 members and it’s been able to offer a mix of in-person social-distancing services inside its large sanctuary while streaming services for others. However, the church expects about 100 people to show up for Christmas Eve, so Dokken said they began exploring other venues, including the beach and the parking lot at Tedesco Country Club. The church has approval for both venues, but at the same time, the rabbi offered the temple as a venue.
“Of all the things offered to us, the temple is the best one,” Dokken said.
“It’s really neat,” Dokken said. “They have been doing the COVID testing there too. I know he wants to see the property get used and he wants to offer it to people.”
Dokken said the service is going to be outdoors, and according to the forecast, it may be fairly warm with a chance of some rain or drizzle. The hope is they will be able to have their musicians perform live music.
“The collaboration between different religious organizations has been great,” he said of the town’s welcoming spirit.
Dokken said Meyer was one of the first religious leaders he met when he came to town, and he said Meyer came to the church right after he started. Dokken said he has always appreciated Meyer for his outreach.
“We are going to welcome them as our guests and I will be there personally,” Meyer said.